My email to Yarra Trams


Earlier today I gave Yarra Trams the benefit of my feedback.

Here’s a transcript of what I wrote:

Dear Yarra Trams,

Last Friday my wife and I decided to take the 86 tram (citybound) to a party in Gertude Street.

My wife calls the 86 a “colourful” tram and, insofar as this is a euphemism for any or all of “a little bit weird”, “often wet of floor”, “generally carrying at least one commuter who surreptitiously masturbates in transit”, etc, etc, she is right. We know what to expect when we hop on the 86 and, compared to taking a Metro train, the 86 is usually a pleasure – the occasional progress from one stop to the next alone is a hugely appealing differentiator.

On Friday night, though, we experienced something that even we (tolerant of the usual poo smells, early morning alcohol consumption of other passengers, and barnyard animals) found confronting.

We got on in Preston and immediately got our first “bit of 86”. A man of about 50, apparently drunk, confronted a person and asked theatrically “IS IT TO BE THAT WE ARE ENGAGED!?”

Do you know what this means? I don’t, but when it’s delivered like a line from quite a good production of King Lear, as it was in this instance, it’s strangely compelling. (By the way, I hope I’m not boring you with apparently minor details, but I know you probably get quite a few of these kind of complaint letters and most will be boring and some will lack the requisite level of explanation, and I wanted to make sure this one is neither mundane nor insubstantial.)

Anyway, the man’s target didn’t respond and he went on to the next person: “DO YOU ENGAGE!?”

Again, no response. This time he followed with “AN ANSWER IS REQUIRED!”

He was being quite aggressive in his manner, even if his language and delivery remained quasi-Shakespearean.

Still no response. Now the tram stopped, the doors opened and a man came on with his partner. “DO YOU ENGAGE?! WITH THE WORLD!? DO YOU?!” he screamed in the man’s face.

“Yes. Constantly,” replied the man, finding a seat and sitting down beside his partner.

This is what the inebriate seemed to be seeking and he sat down opposite the man. “AN ANSWER IS REQUIRED!” screamed he (“screamed he” seems more appropriate than “he screamed” in this case).

“Well, I’m afraid I have answered,” replied the gentleman with scrupulous courtesy.  It wasn’t matched by a young fellow a few seats down who yelled “Leave the bloke alone, you idiot!”

This did it. The drunk swung around in his seat and hollered “SHUT UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Still – and you have to give the man credit for this – he managed to sound like Christopher Lee playing a particularly unhinged villain.

He returned his attention to the polite gentleman and said, “You MUST engage!”

The gentleman said he didn’t appreciate being yelled at. There was a brief pause before the drunk leaned forward and began screaming abuse into the gentleman’s partner’s face. She seemed disgusted and the gentleman demanded the drunk stop.

He yelled a few more baritone expletives then found another victim: “ENGAGEMENT IS A MANDATED REQUIREMENT! THERE MUST BE ENGAGEMENT!”

This, plus louder and louder “FUCK OFF!”s went on and on down High Street.

At one point an 86 regular who we know as Biff Pelican (because that’s what he once introduced himself as), boarded the train carrying a half-finished bottle of fruity lexia and wearing the expression of a man not entirely sure where he was, what he was doing there or why his trousers were sodden. (He was also wearing what looked like carbonara sauce, and a few pieces of penne pasta in his beard, if that helps.) Within seconds of sitting down, he was face to face with the angry tram bully. Usually it is Biff Pelican making preposterous announcements to commuters and asking questions with no sensible answer (once I saw him bowl a loaf of bread down the aisle like a cricket ball and yell “Good area, Biff!” after it hit a woman hard in the leg), but he was out of his league here. It was like that horror movie sequel which starts with the giant sea monster from the first film being devoured whole by a sea monster twice its size. Biff was off at the very next stop.

After more appalling behaviour from the drunk, there was an intervention. A message over the tram’s PA, coming from Yarra Trams’ control room (or whatever you call it – I hope it’s “control room” or “HQ”) directed at the man, told him that he needed to settle down or risk arrest. He ignored it and a second announcement made it clear that the tram would be stopping at Clifton Hill where police would be waiting.

This was a relief to us, and I imagine to all of the suffering passengers. But only for a moment. Clifton Hill seemed suddenly to be several thousand kilometres away. Every pause at traffic lights or a stop seemed to go on endlessly and, all the while, the drunk man’s cacophonous nonsensical pronouncements and insults continued.

Several people couldn’t put up with it and clearly got off well before they were supposed to. At one stage the drunk followed a man around the tram for ten minutes demanding he “engage” with him. He was frequently threatening and there was a sense that at any moment he might become violent.

Finally we arrived at Clifton Hill. The tram stopped, the doors opened and… nothing happened. There were no police. We waited. The man continued his dramatic performance, always seemingly on the precipice of blowing a vital internal valve.

We waited for what must have been half an hour for the promised police. When we eventually saw them, it was far too late. In fact we weren’t even in the tram – or at Clifton Hill for that matter. The driver had asked everyone to disembark and board the tram behind us. Most (the ones who hadn’t got a taxi or a bus) had followed these instructions, but the drunk and a group of teenage boys remained (the boys put the man at the centre of a juvenile game, in which they played the macho heroes – “You wanna say that to our face, man?” – until the bloke got close to them and threatened them at which point they squealed like Justin Bieber fans and ran, arms flapping, to the other end of the tram. They then resumed the macho show, then squealed, went macho, squealed, went macho and so on). With the little smart alecs riling the nutcase, the tram continued on, the driver having said he hoped the police would “catch up”.

The police arrived AFTER we’d been informed over the PA (of the second tram) that the drunk had finally got off the tram in front and was no longer a danger.


Why did you say the police had been called when clearly they hadn’t? Why did the driver tell us the Yarra Trams HQ were “having trouble getting through”? (Having trouble getting through to the police? What – for 45 minutes?) Why did we see a car with Yarra Trams livery before we saw a police car? Why did we wait around like a stale bottle of piss hoping something might happen at Clifton Hill if the police hadn’t been contacted? Why was a man capable of intimidating the magisterial Biff Pelican allowed to roam around on a tram roaring threats and abuse at passengers for an hour or more?

By bringing up these questions with your inaction, you’ve demonstrated ineptitude of the Metro Trains variety. Sorry, I know that’s the worst insult a public transport organisation can have thrown at them, but it’s true.

I look forward to hearing your explanation – and if you could respond as entertainingly as I have complained, I would be most grateful.


Jonathan Rivett

I’ll let you know when I get a response.


They replied! And it may well be the best thing in the history of civilisation:

Picture 2




Already read it? Then…

Picture 45


Haught fact of the day

The myki ticketing system was recently voted The Biggest Piece of Shit in the History of Civilisation by every single newspaper of record and ratings agency in the world. And the United Nations. And the International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organization. And the Country Women’s Association. And every single university in the world.


And the Red Cross.


Grape Men quote of the day:

“You… you hard all you life, you know.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean, mate.”

“You work hard. Many hard. Many hard. But… you… don’t… you know… necessary… get what… what… ”

“You don’t get the respect.”

“That’s it. That’s it, mate. You don’t get the fuck respect you fuck deserve.”

“It’s bullshit, mate. I know. I know that all too well, mate.”

“It’s fuck horsehit.”

“It is. It is. You’re right. You’re right, mate. Aaaanyway. Let’s try to start this bloody lawnmower.”

“OK. But first I do fart and I do piss on Enzo’s car.”


Picture 45


Related Posts

My email to the International Olympic Committee

My email to the International Olympic Committee

My email to the ABC (about Rat from Bananas in Pyjamas)

My email to the ABC (about Rat from Bananas in Pyjamas)

My email to Ticketek

My email to Ticketek

My email to the people of Sydney

My email to the people of Sydney


  1. No, wait. I know this guy! I saw him on the 96 once, and he tried to “engage” me in what seemed like quite a philosophical discussion about whether I was a cat, and if I said I wasn’t, how I knew that. It was actually great because some ticket inspectors got on and I didn’t have a ticket, but they let me off because he was giving me so much trouble.

    He was quite funny though. I remember at one point he addressed the entire tram and someone at the back laughed, at which point he cried, “YOU! What do you laugh at?” and went bounding towards the poor sod (but away from me, thankfully.)

  2. “Why did you say the police had been called when clearly they hadn’t? ”

    How do you know the police hand’t been called? How do you know the delay wasn’t the fault of the police? What a longwinded waste of my time.

    By the way, I have regularly used the 86 and encountered none of your windy claims…

  3. Fruity Lexia from a bottle? The modern alcoholic would be foolhardy to disregard to value for money that comes from a silver bladder in a cardboard receptical.

  4. Good Job writing in about this, something better be done about it!
    I recently received a fine for “disturbing other passengers” on a tram – I don’t even think I could compete up to what this lunatic was doing but I was fined and not this man…? RIDICULOUS

  5. That’s very amusing, and while this in no way excuses Yarra Trams or the Police for their protracted response, why didn’t you just ring the Police yourself?

  6. This is great. I am regular commuter on Tram 86 from Docklands to Queent st. Most of the time this tram is late.The floors are full of empty beer cans or Mac Donald’s paper bag. You need to extremely lucky to reach the destination on time. Tram changes the route any time it wants or terminates any time.There were ticket officers on yesterday(01-05-2012 from Dockland to Queen St) and they were looking at commuters as if we are thieves. A drunk who was sitting on the tram step had a joy ride. The ticket officer didn’t even bothered to ask him for a ticket or move away to minimise inconvenience for other passengers. The seat covers so dirty so I don’t wear any of pale coloured pants.If you lean back your shirt will stick to chewing gum. Tampons can be found in between the seats, thanks for those rogue ladies atleast hiding it between the seats.Most of the times the ticket machine doesn’t work. It need an exact change or else it won’t give you the ticket. Running the red light and blocking the pedestrians is a hobby of the tram driver when it reaches the corner of Spencer st and Bourke st.

  7. Is t..his Dive part of the Worlds most Livable City….To me Melbourne is the last place I’d like to live in

  8. Oh your post so great. I’ve moved West now but for 20 years lived in the North, riding the 86 up and down High St. On that tram you get such an idea of who lives and journeys in our city, and you get street smarts real quick, like you can talk to some other people even though you might not choose them for a friend, and never never to intervene when very thin guys in singlets and shell suit dacks with really short hair and slightly flushed faces have a go at someone. Does the immaculately dressed man from Athens still ride on it, carrying his oil painting of a reposing naked lady? We who travel on it may not be allongés a l’herbe but it sure beats driving by ourselves. Many thanks

    • Does the immaculately dressed man from Athens still ride on it, carrying his oil painting of a reposing naked lady?

      Indeed, he does!

      • I know that guy! He used to walk past our house all the time. I called him Painting Man.

        One day he was trying to sell the painting to some dude on the tram. I alighted before the transaction was complete but obviously, he didn’t succeed.

  9. Funny, witty and superb grasp of the English language from both sides. And yes, Melbourne has its “eccentrics” that make tram travel an adventure of sorts.

  10. You are awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you for telling them, I’m sure they know but thank you anyway. My boss showed me this after he was laughing very loud and it made my day. Using the 86 frequently makes appreciate this even more!

  11. I can’t believe The Age took me here. This is neither entertaining or interesting. You have too much time and not enough wit.

  12. I feel genuine sorrow for people who not only fail to see the genius and wit behind the original email and/or Yarra Trams’ response, but who then feel the need to use their own precious time to comment to such effect.

    Brilliant, the lot of it.

  13. If you and possibly a couple of other passengers had even trace amounts of testosterone in you you’d have put an immediate cease to his consciousness.

  14. As barbaric as it sounds, I concur with Brett’s sentiment of bringing the drunkard’s consciousness to an immediate cease.

    To the folk who are too busy and witty to post anything complimentary about this article, try to utilise your considerable intelligence and understand that you are far too superior to have been at the epicentre of Jonathan’s primary concern while constructing this piece of discourse. If you check with him yourself, you may be stunned to discover it was not written for your entertainment. It’s not all about you, Truman Show.

  15. You are a great writer Jonathan. I was thoroughly entertained. Anyone who failed to see the humour of your story is very sad indeed.

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