Thanks Mate – When Others Are Thanked On My Behalf

Today was a refreshing day at the train station. Trains had not been running all the way into the city for the past five days. A commute to Glen Waverley or to the city involved getting a bus from Darling to Richmond. (Yes we have a station called Darling!).

So there was a feeling of relief in the air today at Glen Waverley, as passengers disembarked a train that had just arrived. Even the staff seemed relieved – like their first day back at work after a week’s leave.

So I swipe my card to get through the barrier and I’m greeted by friendly banter “Morning sir, good to have those trains back, eh?” to which I respond with ‘yep … definitely nice not to have to be on a bus!’. It’s peak hour, so there’s a rush of commuters coming towards me, wanting to get on the next city train. Looking forward to a full, uninterrupted trip all the way into town.

I bump into a guy as I take the corner. He’s wearing a high-vis vest. Well not high enough ‘vis’ for me, as I stepped on his foot. Before he has a chance to react, I chime in with an ‘I’m sorry’ – he’s all good with that – ‘no worries mate!’ he exclaims. But is that the end of it? Well normally it would be – but no. The attendant at the barrier says to the man ‘thanks for that’ – like somehow he needs to thank the man for accepting my apology and being a good sport. But I am left to wonder why it is that we need that backup thank you. Was my apology not good enough?

People speaking on your behalf is a common occurrence for anyone who has a sight impairment. I remember a story not so long ago where a truck was reversing out of a driveway. The driver had stopped to wait for traffic but was completely obstructing the footpath. I paused and waited for him, but he was taking some time. I was eager to get past as I had a tram to catch. A fellow pedestrian came up behind me ‘mate, there’s a truck there!’ – something I was actually already aware of, then once the truck had moved, ‘ok it’s safe now’ – something else I was aware of. The truck driver called out to the pedestrian ‘thanks for that mate!’ – which puzzled me. Why could the driver not have just said something to me directly? The whole series of interactions seemed pointless really.

I never know quite how to react in those situations – the truck driver has gone, the pedestrian feels as though he’s done the right thing and was thanked for his efforts.

But the real issue here is why are we seen as the third person? Like how you would react as a parent on behalf of a small child when they do something inappropriate.

I am not a small child.

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