This is a personal narrative, I hope, about optimism and positivity.
I used to be a teacher. In the last few years of my teaching career, I was an English teacher. It was teaching English that enabled me to work and live in Catalonia which I very much loved. On my return to Australia, I was lucky to find work teaching English to international students in one of Australia’s largest language schools. However, due to Covid-19 and the closure of international borders, student enrolments began to drop off. The school where I had been working went from 1000 students per day down to a couple of hundred by the middle of 2020 and the projected enrolment figures looked bad.
I began to look for alternative work which wasn’t easy during a pandemic that caused many people around the world to lose their jobs. I first looked for different teaching jobs such as teaching English to migrants (of which Australia had an enormous number) or working with disadvantaged and at-risk youth who have problems learning in regular schools.
By chance, I came across a promotion for tram driver training. I applied. I ’ve never looked back.
Melbourne’s iconic tram network is the world’s largest tram network. It is also the only tram network in the world that shares a large percentage of its tracks with cars, buses, motorbikes and so on. This unfortunately results in collisions and other dramas. It is 136 years old, has at least 1200 drivers and nine depots. It covers 550kms of tracks with 492 trams over 25 routes. It operates seven classes (types) of trams ranging from the W-Class dating from 1935 to the very new E-Class built now. In the CBD the trams are free to ride.
Some of the modern classes are the same as the trams in the Barcelona tram fleet.
I started the training at the end of March 2021, passed and am now a solo driver. Initially, my application gave rise to some amusement and curiosity among friends and family. My defense was that in this current pandemic climate of unemployment and uncertainty, I was very fortunate to not only find a new career (and I am not young) but one that was permanent.
The training was intense and worked over full-time shifts day and night. Days off were very irregular and I didn’t see my family during that time. The assessments were daunting.
Since passing the assessments, I find something interesting, beautiful, amusing, frightening, fascinating and much more every single day.
Since passing the assessments, Melbourne has been in lockdown three times so much so that Melburnians feel as if we have been in permanent lockdown. We are still in lockdown as I write this but public transport does not stop. Consequently, I have had the luxury of being able to gain more confidence and build up my driving skills in relatively quiet conditions. Peak travel times are different because so many people continue to work from home, currently shops and businesses are closed and the CBD is quiet.
In lockdown, there are, of course, many people, essential or blue-collar workers, who still have to work and for whom trams are the means for them to get to and from work. There are also many people with social or mental health problems who continue to ride the trams. Lonely people, confused people, drug or alcohol affected people, aggressive people, homeless people.
In the early morning I watch the sun rise over the city and in the early evening I watch magnificent sunsets in the west over Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay. In between I find things to smile about, laugh at, wonder at, be amazed by and look forward to seeing again.
In a world that seems to be filled with so much negativity and pessimism, every day I remind myself how lucky I am and, simply, that the world is a good place.
-CBD (Central Business District)=centre comercial