Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bus Stop

I’ve debated about whether to inflict myself upon you this week. I haven’t been in the best frame of mind, experiencing a general feeling of malaise, the origin of which has proven difficult to articulate. Aside from giving in to eating white chocolate Rocky Road from Darrell Lea, this mood has manifested itself in flat, uninspired writing fit only for the Recycle Bin. Now, however, I find myself in circumstances where it’s too early to go to bed without feeling guilty; I should be marking the last thirteen of ninety-eight essays, which are due tomorrow, but I think demanding of an empty room how much more of this ungrammatical drivel I have to read is a clear sign to cease and desist (Of course there have been some very good essays; it’s more a case that one shouldn’t try and mark more than fifteen (?) 2000 word essays in one day. Even coherent sentences will prove challenging). Anyway, there was something I wrote about that was worth rifling through the trash for. I’ve tried to make it readable, but I may have written as badly as I’ve charged my students. Perhaps if you give me a grade for written expression I’ll feel shamed and re-evaluate the essays more kindly.

Tuesday 15 November

Watching the news last night, I learned there had been a terrorist scare in Brisbane. Apparently, someone had told the police that a bomb was set to go off on public transport in the CBD. Around midday, at least one train station was evacuated and closed, and buses were delayed until the authorities were assured it was safe for services to continue. Then, as the ABC News reported, the evacuations were repeated during peak hour.

Yesterday, I left home at 12.30pm and caught a bus to the CBD, going past one of the evacuated train stations, before transferring to another service that transported me to university. After I’d swapped the essays I’d marked at home for unmarked ones that I’d left in my office, I caught another bus, returning to the CBD and then out to the other university.

I was surprised when I saw the news report. There had been a vague email notice in my inbox at the second university, but when I followed the link they provided to the Transport Authority website, I had been presented with an error message. I didn’t think much more about it. I walked home from the second university at around 6.00pm, and had plenty of time to settle in before the news began.

I’d been oblivious to any crisis and I’m not sure what to think about that. I used to work at the Tax Office where bomb threats were a comparatively regular occurrence. It’s true to say that we were quite complacent about them; more often that not we were told to go home for the day, so any threat proved to be a cause for celebration. But that was fifteen years ago and we live in different times. In the recent London bombings, Dr H’s daughter had travelled on the Underground, along one of the targeted lines only half an hour before the explosions occurred.


On Wednesday, I caught a morning news bulletin and at that stage the hoax caller was still ‘at large’. The police knew that the same man had made the threats from three different public phones and they kept showing pictures of the phones covered in finger print dust. I experienced a moment of hesitation to think that I was going out that day with the possibility that more threats or even an incident would occur. On the news they kept showing a bus with the number of the route I regularly catch displayed. Before anyone in Brisbane could dwell for too long on any dire possibilities, the man was arrested and this time the pictures showed a man in the back of a car with a towel over his head.

The hoax caller was a delivery driver whose movements the police tracked from his delivery dockets. He has been ordered to have a psychiatric assessment.

The government has said they will be able to refine the emergency response strategy after analysing the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of their reaction on this occasion.


That’s the week that was.

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