...are many and close between.
Moving to the western suburbs just shy of a year ago, I had no idea just what flavour the everyday aspects of my life would take on. The lengthy train journeys between home and work are ideal for capitalising on lost sleep, and almost pleasant for the uninterrupted time it allows me to read. The four hours I spend in transit each day are an inconvenience, though not entirely without benefit... provided nobody from the western suburbs is coming to or from the western suburbs. And four hours allows plenty of time for western suburbanites to burst the literary (or sleepy) bubble in which I have cocooned myself.
With regular examples of fighting, screaming, talking to oneself, bad parenting, and religious extremism, it wasn't long before I realised that the giddiest height of sophistication Penrith will ever see is the mullet. Apparently it's quite the 'do' to sport if one lives out here. Swear words abound, and nary a sentence is spoken without including something offensive. Once I saw a girl who had to ask "what does one times two mean?", and while my raucous laughter signalled that I thought it a bit of a silly question, she evidently had the intelligence to tell I found her remark a wee bit stupid. Figuring out what I was laughing at probably took all the accumulated brain power of her twenty-something years.
Hence I was most excited (and only mildly irritated) when a guy interrupted me at the station one day with an enquiry about what I was reading. How I wished I had been reading Kafka, Kundera or Proust. Imagine what joy, what heavenly glory could have unfolded had I been able to discuss classic literature with a fellow commuter! As it was, I was slightly abashed to only have been reading A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French. Not what you'd call a masterpiece, but that was the book in my hands as I tried to conceal my bemusement, and I was excited to discuss it nonetheless. He asked what I was reading, I told him, thinking that perhaps he had read it or harboured a desire to do so.
Oh silly Ernid, ever the foolish optimist!
He did not want to swap quotes, discuss themes or discourse; indeed, he had not read the book. Nor did he want to know much about it. The sentence he used to open our literary foray was "I know ya not s'posed ta judge a book by its cover, but I have, and I reckon that book looks shit". Affronted, I hastily defended my book and said that while it was no Pulitzer Prize winner, it wasn't bad if one was in the mood for a casual and uncomplicated read. He swore a little more, exuding uneducated judgment, before I asked him what kind of book was his cup of tea. I don't know why I was surprised by his answer, indeed I think most fans of Twilight have single figure Intellectual Quotients. But there it was. I stifled my laughter when I realised he was serious. Twilight, the worst of all sins.
But wait, it gets worse.
He hadn't even read Twilight. He was spurting his love of Stephenie Meyer's godawful series by way of comparing her books (which he hadn't read) to my book (which he also hadn't read). He was basing the quality of the Twilight books on the merits of the movies (which was even more surprising to me, as I didn't know the movies had merits. Then again, I've only seen the first one, and felt unqualified to comment. In hindsight, I really needn't have worried.) I suggested he read the books before comparing them to other books, to which he replied that he had started reading the first book and couldn't finish it. I suspect there were too many big words for him. He said he just didn't like reading. I proposed he read a book before telling others their own looked like a poor recommendation.
Naturally, the discussion turned to a war between Twilight and Harry Potter. I felt well armed with my arguments on literary style, character development and morals. Having read all seven Harrys and (unfortunately) those four awful vampire books, my debate was strong. So well formed was my argument that a fellow commuter chimed in and agreed with me. This was an argument I could not lose, even if it was against an idiot! What pride, what joy, my new comrade and I would shut this imbecile up with reasoned argument and educated opinion. He scratched his tattooed neck as I used words too lengthy for his comprehension (such as "wizard" and "cat"), and I revelled in the camaraderie I felt with this other fellow who had taken up my cause.
Apparently, however, I had chosen the wrong team mate for my debate. He promptly threw up all over the train carriage and excused himself from the conversation. Never mind, I at least had an excuse to move to another carriage and away from Captain Twi-hard. But of course he followed me. Then told me the rest of his life story; his loves, his losses, his illegitimate child. He really did. He was excruciating. And all I wanted was to read my book!
I began thinking I shouldn't have brought a book with me in the first place, purely so it would be impossible to interrupt my reading (a sure way to ruin my day). But if I hadn't brought a book at all, this episode never would have taken place. I would've missed out on yet another precious western suburbs moment.
And wouldn't my life be poorer for it.