By Vita Forest
After visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, I had emerged from the building into the city at dusk. The sun was setting over the Opera House, tingeing all the windows around the harbour an apricot pink, a busker with tight black curls and ripped jeans sang Bright like a diamond into a microphone, and the sharp salty sea-scent tickled my nostrils as I walked closer to the water. I people-watched and moseyed along, past the tour groups with their matching badges, past the neon signs flickering to life and into the station. Into Peak Hour.
This was the second time that day I had forgotten the time, forgotten the place. I would not have chosen to leave at that exact moment if I had thought about it. The museum was staying open late, I could have gone and looked at another floor. Or perhaps had a picnic outside on the lawn, looking at the city lights and enjoying the balmy autumn night. But no – I was at Circular Quay station, in the thick of it all. Peak Hour on public transport in the city is something I don’t experience anymore, so it’s something of a novelty. I felt something of a tourist in my own town, or an anthropologist observing a fascinating foreign custom. There were so many people and they were so BIG (my class are all tiny folk who make me feel quite gigantic). There were strange conversations to overhear. A man near me was talking in an authoritative voice about “strategizing” and “calibrating”…. something to do with government agencies. It all sounded terribly impressive. There were lots of people in suits, lanyards hanging out of pockets, women in very high heels (which are also extremely foreign to me).
And they all had iPhones… Something else that is absent from the schoolyard (if they are there, they have to stay in bags on silent, out of sight, until after the bell rings). This was something I had noticed earlier on my sketching expedition. I had almost thought I could start a new blog entitled “People on phones” and just upload different sketches of people on phones (maybe I still will…) Everyone was looking down at their own private screens, some listening to private music collections, others surfing radio stations. Some people were checking the share prices, others were skimming through their Facebook feeds – wedding photos, holiday snaps, unbelievable offers. They were disappearing into their own private little worlds, they were blanking out. There were very few of us aware of the people around us, aware of the view out over to Balmain as the train went over the Harbour Bridge (I do try and notice these things). Their hands were clutching their phones like security blankets. I suppose they are in a way. If you ever find yourself alone, waiting, or too early, you don’t have to look awkward or anxious anymore.
You can just pull out your phone and disappear into it.