This is where all the action is, folks. It’s not just a place to switch trams, but also a place to run into people you haven’t seen for years. “Oh,” you say, “I didn’t know you took this tram!” Well, as a matter of fact, they take this tram every day to work. You start mentally reconfiguring your entire schedule in order to avoid this person in future while you engage in small talk that accidentally leads to a conversation about their failing liver. How could you forget about that, you monster? When you’re not freaking out about your next awkward conversation, you can take in the sumptuous surrounds of The Shrine. Those rolling hills give you the impression that you’re somewhere fertile, instead of a stone’s throw away from an industrial death machine, aka the CBD, and surrounded by ice addicts who can and will knife you for your change.
Here’s where you can see the NGV and the Arts Centre in one hit. Take in the view, peeps. That’s culture. Unfortunately, this is also where your first date with that germ scientist concluded. You went to the Degas exhibition, during which he kept coming super-close to you and bragging about how many languages he spoke (five). You spoke to him in fluent French, to which he shrugged, and said in English, “You’re trying.” But because you’re a sucker for a guy who seems to “need” you, you actually bought him a coffee afterwards and listened to him talk about the latest breakthroughs in germs, and part of you started thinking, Maybe I’m the one with the problem? Out at the tram stop, he hugged you good-bye, squeezing the life out of you, as if you were a precious childhood toy that had been recovered. You later had a sexual experience with him that was so disgusting, you still struggle to believe it really happened.
Nicholson Street x Gertrude Street
Everyone’s favourite tram stop – or, at least, it should be. Nothing but good times to be had here. Literally within spitting distance you’ve got the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Museum and IMAX. Who doesn’t like IMAX? Only insane people. And even they have to admit it’s pretty cool, when push comes to shove. The view down Gertrude Street is also a bit of fun – even though you’ll always associate it with the time you met an ex-partner’s parents and brother and brother’s girlfriend. You said nothing because you had nothing to contribute to the conversation. That’s OK – but you did come across like an arsehole who was too good for everybody. Your sister’s old high school is just across the road, but all you know about it is that when she was in year seven, she put a girl in a headlock. Also, a girl from that school (not the same one) became a model, and went on to play a small but significant role in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Commercial Road x Chapel Street
This one’s got all the amenities you could possibly need (chemist, 7-Eleven, grandparents’ house nearby), plus a whole lot of bars where you can go and down a glass of red, if you’ve missed a 72 tram and have to wait 20 minutes. The thing is, though, that by the time you get to the bar, have a conversation with the barman, realise you also need to go to the toilet, then go to the toilet, then sit down, then move tables because someone at the next table keeps looking at you and he looks like the kind of person who would go to Derby Day and use the word ‘root’ in the sexual sense, you’ve pretty much wasted the whole 20 minutes. The lesson here is: settle in, relax, there are more trams where that came from. If your focus is getting drunk, then get drunk! This is also the spot where an ex whistled at you like you were a cab, and you can see that moment play out every time you’re here.
Nicholson Street Terminus
This the tram stop you arrive at if you’re doing a broadcast on Triple R, or attending a show in the station’s performance space. There’s always someone who freaks out because they think the tram has taken off without them, but they don’t realise that in order to go back into the city, the tram has to go a little further down the tracks, then return to the stop. Allay this person’s fears as best as you can – it’s a chance to make a new friend. Of course, you can’t guarantee that the tram will come back for them. You don’t know what’s going on in the tram driver’s mind – and you never will. Because everyone is allowed to have “private thoughts”. Hopefully that tram driver will be right back, opening up the doors, just like they’re employed to do. But always expect the unexpected – especially in an area like Brunswick East, where you’re sure to see someone wearing a cardigan as trousers.
Glenferrie Road x Malvern Road
An unremarkable tram stop, but one where many a jolly memory can be made, because it’s here that the tram sometimes terminates due to roadworks and you’ll find yourself waiting for a replacement bus while peeking in the window of Malvern Chook Shop. Now you can entertain the idea of buying yourself a quarter chicken and chips, even though you didn’t go to the gym that day. How decadent. This is also where that guy who always stares at you gets off to switch to the number 16 tram. He stares and smiles and waits for you to smile back – and yes, sometimes you do. But how many times can you smile politely before one of you has come out and say, “So, how’s that climate change?” or something, and once you do, there’s no going back. Then the conversation door will always be open. Is that a risk you’re willing to take? Answer: not at this stage.
Elizabeth Street Terminus
Looking for trouble? You’ll find it at the Elizabeth Street Terminus. Ahh, the grime, the poverty, the knowledge that nobody really wants to be there – except the people whiling away an hour in the high-speed internet haven that is Club X (and even then?). You’ll get approached by a man who says that he swears Catherine Zeta-Jones is the most beautiful woman he ever saw, and tells you exactly what he’d do to her if he got her alone (treat her like the princess she is, it turns out). Plus, you’ll get you to enjoy sub-standard fries at Lord of the Fries, a shop name pun that makes less sense the more that you think about it, unless their objective is to ostracise and kill people (because that’s the text they’re referencing!). Finally, this is where you’ll receive an email address written on a torn-off bit of a brown paper bag from Polyester Records. The guy who gives it to you becomes your best friend, your lover, then the reason you’re in permanent therapy.
The good luck tram stop! Every time you go to catch a tram here – and I mean every time – it’s there within two minutes or less. How is that even possible? Answer: it isn’t, and your luck is running out. Behind you is Brunetti’s, a cafe chain store that used to be good until your standards improved and now you only go to St Ali, which is a suburb over, but so worth it. One of the great things about this tram stop is that it isn’t the Federation Square tram stop, which is one stop further along and literally a world of shit. You’ve contributed to that shit (we all have) by littering when you didn’t need to (there are multiple bins), but the lack of hygiene makes you think, Why bother? Back at City Square, you actually care about your life and that of others, so you’ll make that effort to walk two steps over and dispose of your garbage thoughtfully. Also handy: the Melbourne Town Hall toilets, which are just across the road and rarely (if ever) have their hand soaps run out.
Clarendon Street x Park Street
Look, you’re not going to win any “cool points” for saying you’ve bummed around waiting for trams at the corner of Clarendon Street and Park Street – or are you? Because it’s right across from this tram stop that you’ll find the Limerick Arms Hotel, sellers of the finest double decker burger you’ll ever eat. It’s also the one of the only pubs in South Melbourne that doesn’t turn into a total shit fight on a Friday night, and since you work in the area, this information is critical to you. This tram stop is also sufficiently far enough away from your workplace that you can begin to consider yourself as a human being again, as opposed to the polite and pointless conversation generator you are for eight hours of the day. One evening while waiting here, a 12 year old kid came up to ask you for 50 cents, because he and his friends were short on fish and chip money. “Here,” you said. “Have a dollar.” As he ran off, he screamed, “You’re a lifesaver!” You believed him.
Flemington Road Stop 12
It may well be the most frightening roundabout of all time, but if your sister’s having a baby at the Royal Women’s Hospital, well, this is one tram stop you’ll just have to get used to. Expect extended anxious waiting at the various intersections you have to cross, before making your way to the hospital, and walking into to the ward, only to discover that you’re too late, she’s already had it – and look, there’s all the blood. Oh, god, the blood. And look, there’s a woman stitching up your sister’s vagina. And look, there’s some shit. But it’s all good, there’s a baby, and it’s alive, and you automatically love it, even though you’re pretty sure she’s cross-eyed – and, as you remind everyone, “She could become a prostitute.” You look forward to endless hours of forcing her to listen to the music you love, and taking her on her first tram ride. She’s got some great times ahead of her.
This article first appeared in Triple R FM’s The Trip Magazine April 2017 edition.