Andrea Pavleka - Trouble at the Junction



‘The next stop is St Kilda junction. St Kilda junction is the next stop.’


The robotic voice from the tram intercom sounds assured. It knows its stuff. I’m on one of the fancy

trams this morning. They’re European, I think. The robotic voice would be so much nicer if it had a

foreign accent, and nicer still if it was human. Before trams had synthetic voices, the tram drivers

would sometimes share the news of the day or remind you what was happening in the city. Arriving

in the CBD, as we all piled out, you’d sometimes hear a joyful, ‘Enjoy the day everyone!’


The robot voice has never wished me a nice day. Not once.


Tram rides used to be … more personal, I guess. You knew what people were up to. You could see

what book they were reading. Hell, maybe you’d even read it yourself and could offer a witty insight.

Or you’d see a bloke absorbed in the sports section of the paper. ‘Saints are looking good,’ you’d say,

and he’d flash you a smile. You felt connected to one another in your unique tram universe.


But now, everyone’s in their own private universe. Looking at a screen with earphones on, will do

that to you. It’s progress, apparently. What are they doing on those screens exactly? Impossible to

say, usually. Whatever it is, they are oblivious to others, as if we’re invisible.


For the likes of me, it’s true I have an added disadvantage in the invisibility stakes. I’m of an age

where I’m too old for anyone to be checking me out and too young to be a falling hazard for other

commuters. Sometimes, I am so unseen I think I must be wearing Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak.


I’ve been catching this tram for twenty years. I live two stops from the junction where I can see Ed

and Vi now boarding. Ed sits next to me and Vi’s across the aisle. They’re regulars, but after six years

of us cohabitating on the tram, I don’t know their real names. Annoyingly, they only call each other

‘babe’. They never notice me, but I have studied them closely. I have drawn, shall we say, certain

conclusions about them. Hence my naming of them – Ed, short for Egotistical Dickhead, and Vi, short

for Very Insecure.


Vi’s got a magazine today. That’s unusual. She’s brandishing it, hoping everyone will see it and be

envious. Well, I do and I’m not. It confirms my worst fear – it’s a bridal magazine. I doubt Ed is busy

planning the nuptials. I crane my neck and see he’s messaging someone called Mel. Love hearts

pepper the screen. And hang on, a photo as well. Breasts. Goodness, Mel is amply endowed. Ed

smiles slyly and I loathe him. He’s so absorbed in Mel’s breasts, and I’m so invisible to him, that he

doesn’t realise he’s sprung.


I’m moving house tomorrow and my new tram doesn’t go through the junction. The Invisibility Cloak

lifts momentarily, and my Myki drops at Vi’s feet. Together we bend down to retrieve it.


‘Don’t do it,’ I whisper.


She blinks and her brow crinkles.


‘Check his phone.’


I don’t wait for a reply. As I exit the tram, I see her gaze fix on Ed. Now, that’s what I call progress.