Sometimes, all it takes is a one-word prompt to get us writing. Today’s Daily Post writing prompt: MYTHICAL
LET’s think about this. What comes to mind on hearing the word ‘mythical’? Some past belief that has been proven untrue? Or an idea that is yet to be proven true? It was the latter that I encountered on the short bus ride from Sydney CBD to Glebe last week.
The bus driver was a talkative man probably somewhere in his mid-to-late fourties. The woman was young, perhaps towards the end of her twenties, maybe just past that. She was of Asian extraction, her skin a light olive and her less-than-shoulder-length hair and her dress black. She was sitting in the little single seat immediately behind the front door of the bus, placing her within easy conversation distance of the driver opposite.
I was sitting a couple seats back from the driver, placing me within easy listening distance from the conversation that followed. It was a two-topic conversation, one topic about a mythology that developed when the City of Sydney installed bicycle lanes and the other mythical in a national, even international way, but being mythical in the sense that it is a story about something that is only starting to happen and mythical in the sense that we cannot know how it will turn out.
It unfolded like this.
We were at a stoplight when the driver spoke to the woman.
“He’s not even using the cycle lane”, he said, drawing the woman’s attention to a cyclist in the adjacent lane. “And now he’s running the red light.”
“You mean people don’t use them?”, asked the woman about the cycle lanes.
“They’re a waste on money and they lose car parking spaces”, replied the driver.
We drove on as I recalled the minor controversy that had accompanied the construction of the cycle lanes a few years ago. Then, there were allegations that they were poorly used, a claim that stands in acute contrast to the bicycles I see using the long Bourke Street cycleway and that along Kent Street through the city. Those claims had been spearheaded by a rightwing talkback radio host of dubious repute, and they cought on with the car lobby. However, the cycleways remain.
We were approaching Railway Square when the conversation changed topic. Somehow, it was working life that now was the focus.
“I’ve worked as a fulltime casual for ten years now… since 2004”, the woman told the driver. “I get no annual leave, no holiday or sick pay.”
“They say we have high employment but that’s not true”, replied the driver. “So much is casual work now.”
“It happened during John Howard’s time (Howard is an ex-prime minister of Australia). It’s all Howard’s fault”, the woman added.
THE MYTHICAL AS TRUISM
Whereas the first conversation — about the city’s cycleways — is mythical in the sense that it is untrue and that the surrounding controversy was one manufactured by the car lobby, the second conversation was mythical in that it is yet to unfold fully. Unlike a lot of myths, it contains a high degree of truth.
It is also a conversation that we are starting to hear more of and that will get louder as changes in working life further affect the once-secure world of work. We are yet to see profound consequences of the increasingly-insecure world of work that is becoming the reality for more people, but surely they will come. Who, forced into casual and parttime work when they would prefer permanent fulltime livelihoods, would have the income security to invest in a house or high-price products?
So it was that a short bus ride broached two myths, one of the recent past and one of the uncertain future. In doing that, social insecurities came to the fore and it left me wondering that, if a bus driver and a stranger can talk of important social issues on the short drive to Glebe, then wouldn’t this indicate a deeper sense of uncertainty about our future that is shared by thousands more?