Dancing Monkey Post 2: Memories of Brisbane’s Ferry System

The Dancing Monkey challenge from lauragoodin: “write a blog post about being on a Brisbane ferry. At night. And it’s raining. And you’ve spent your last money on the fare.”

I suspect it’s not what Laura intended, but every time I read that request all it translates into is “please tell me what it was like being twenty-three.” It’s all the qualifiers to the original request that do it – when I was twenty-three I’d just finished my honours year in which I wrote a lot of poetry, just moved to Brisbane for the first time, and just started my PhD. Being at the tail-end of my love-affair with goth as a movement, I was prone to attaching all sorts of significance to thing that happened in moments of poverty, rain and night.

Lets not make this *all* about nostalgia though. Instead lets talk about exactly how lucky you are if you live in a city with a decent public transport system, because I’ll admit that my first few years in Brisbane was largely spent listening to people bitch about the buses, trains and ferries while resisting the urge to shake them and scream “what the fuck are you complaining about.”

Everyone I’ve ever met is adamant that the public transport system in their home city is the worst available, but I think I can mount a safe argument for the Gold Coast (aka the city that I spent most of my teenage years growing up in) has one the worst of the lot. Part of it is an infrastructure problem – the Gold Coast bus service is privatized and the city expands faster than pretty-much everywhere else in Queensland. Part of it is cultural – the Gold Coast is a tourist city with a lot of beaches. But the basic gist of the Gold Coast public transport system is this – if you don’t want to travel along the highway that rarely strays further than a block and a half from the shoreline, you’re screwed. In order to catch a bus to uni as an undergraduate (a 30 minute drive), I used to have to hike out to the highway (about twenty-five minutes) and catch three transfers at various tourist malls in order to travel along what was, more or less, a straight line (about two hours, maybe longer if the drivers were feeling fickle or you missed a service). All this was, of course, essentially impossible if I had classes that started before nine (a surprisingly common occurrence, given that I was in an arts degree). Add in the Gold Coast’s tendency towards continuous roadworks and the once-a-year insistence on spending a month setting up an Indy Car race track in the heart of the tourist district (which *every* bus in the city passed through) and you start to get a pretty good idea why I look at buses, even Brisbane buses which are comparatively well-run, with a look of disdain and horror.

So when I was twenty-three, broke, and moved to Brisbane where there were options such as trains and ferries, lets just say I went a little crazy with the options. Hence it’s nearly impossible for me to separate the ferry from that particular age. Between twenty-three and twenty-four I spent a lot of time on the trains and ferries, often purchasing tickets with fistful’s of spare change that was scavenged from desk drawers and couch cushions. By the time I was twenty-five I’d fallen out of the habit – I started working back on the Gold Coast regularly and many of the fellow Brisbanites with whom I car-pooled stopped, so I was basically driving everywhere instead. It’s only within the last year or two that I’ve really started working to break that habit and make a concerted effort to use the trains again.

(Yes, I realise there really isn’t much to this, but truthfully I’m a much bigger fan of Brisbane’s train system than I am the Ferry system. I think people tend to fixate on one form of transport in particular depending on where they live, and I’ve primarily lived in Brisbane suburbs where the train is your best choice for getting anywhere you need to go).

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