I’ve been demoted or promoted depending on your perspective, to The Booth, which is the ticket stand beside the train station. Only once or twice a week, but to begin with I felt snubbed. This was until I realised it featured in its own cartoon series: ‘The Booth.’ Quite humdrum at first appearances, much of my time in The Booth is spent directing lost pensioners to the Information Centre over the road. There was an upsurge in activity recently when a disabled busker stationed himself 10 feet from my face and fired up his mobile karaoke machine. He then put ‘Hey Baby’ by DJ Otzi on repeat and screamed over it. Occasionally he would sing the correct lyrics, like ‘Heeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyy Baby!’ but predominantly he would just scream. He was having a great time. I wasn’t and neither was anyone else. People shielded their ears and their children’s as the incoherent wails ricocheted down St Kilda Road. But of course I wasn’t going to say anything as the guy in question was disabled. Fortunately, a bald bloke from the casino next door wasn’t so principled. A few well-placed words later and the shrieking busker was moving on. I immediately felt sorry for him but suddenly a customer approached The Booth looking for a cruise. I realised in the two hours the Otzi tribute act had been in the vicinity I hadn’t sold a single ticket.
I still work on the boats of course. On the big boat the worst aspect of the job is scraping off the seagull shite with the hose. In The Booth it’s human waste you have to worry about. Tramps use the stairwell and the wee nook belonging to The Booth as their own gigantic toilet. It’s a true olfactory experience when you go to open up your place of work for the day and the tramps have been going heavy on the grog all night, pools of fresh urine steaming in the morning sun. We don’t have a hose in The Booth unfortunately.
There was added drama on the big boat last week when an old lady collapsed. I was working on the small boat so was a bystander on this occasion, thank God, so I only got the whole story from the deck-hand on duty and a few understandably upset passengers. The Captain, never in contention for the Nobel Peace Prize, was visibly annoyed by the lady’s collapse. He called the office and told them to call an ambulance as a lady was “unwell”. He hung up after this detailed diagnosis, leaving the bloke in the office with a fairly vague description to pass on to the emergency services. Relatives of the stricken woman asked The Captain how long it would be before they could disembark and get her to a hospital. “As long as it takes!” Retorted the unsympathetic Croat, to general dismay and disbelief. Upon mooring at the wharf he then continued to let passengers on to the boat, who had to shuffle awkwardly past the prone lady who was splayed in the recovery position. Disembarking passengers exclaimed their shock at his lack of empathy to us on shore. But what could we do? Paramedics arrived on motorbike and boarded the vessel, tending to their patient with due care and attention. The Captain complained loudly that they were taking too long, delaying his next precious cruise to the hallowed grounds of Herring Island. Thankfully the poorly pensioner was taken to hospital fully conscious and on the mend. The Captain greeted this news like he’d got two numbers in the lottery. Astonishingly he then held up the next cruise by over 20 minutes so he could eat lots of sushi. The man is not a Roald Dahl character. He is real.