Thursday, December 30

Waste of space

Waiting in vain for a train today, I watched a German tourist couple search in vain for a rubbish bin for the remaining half of their uniquely Australian sausage roll. ("Die is nicht wurst!")

They were looking for a rubbish bin on the train platform. How could this be? I remember the decision, post-9/11, to remove the rubbish bins from railway stations in NSW, citing the threat of terrorists leaving bombs or starting fires in them. Sadly, Germans are no strangers to terrorism; international and domestic, religious and political. Surely in Germany there are no rubbish bins in any public place, much less their railway stations.

Have the Germans, famous for their engineering, somehow invented a bombproof rubbish bin? Or does a few decades of living with the threat of terrorism instil a cavalier disregard for terrorist threats amongst the safety-mad Germans? It seems unlikely.

Instead, I suspect the German railways have sensibly decided that removing bins does nothing to reduce the terrorist risk; it just increases the amount of litter. After all, if I were a fanatical terrorist determined to place a bomb in the station, would the lack of a convenient rubbish bin really dissuade me?

"I'm terribly sorry," I can see myself reporting to my terrorist cell leader. "All that training you put me through in Afghanistan, the trouble we went to smuggling the components, the time we spent plotting� it's all been wasted. They've taken the rubbish bins off the railway platforms. I could have put the bomb on the tracks, left it in a toilet, placed it on the wrought iron beams holding up the roof, left it in my bag, or placed it on a train, but your strict instructions were to place it in a rubbish bin." If I was that stupid, the only danger I'd represent would be to myself.

I finished my large takeaway coffee, asked the Germans to follow me, and walked over to the platform attendant. "This is rubbish," I said.

"I know," he said. "Trains are running late and out of timetable order due to unusual weather conditions," he said, pointing to the sky. "The wind is coming from the northwest. That hardly ever happens. We're in complete disarray."

"�wegen des wetters?" One of the Germans muttered, looking up to the heavens.

"You misunderstand me," I said, passing him my empty coffee cup. "This is rubbish."

"You bought it here?" He shrugged, "We can't even make the trains run on time, and you expect great coffee?"

Buy a coffee at one of Central's many food shops, and you won't find a bin there, or on the platforms, or even in the nearby park. I had to hunt far and wide before finding one underneath the paper towels in the men's toilets.

Terrorists apparently don't go to the toilet, or, if they do, they don't wash their hands. I may have just single-handedly raised the alert level at State Rail from a manic Code Orange to a gibbering Code Red, but I owe it to my fellow commuters. Don't everybody throw your rubbish in there at once.

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