WHEN she got a two days a week job in Perth, it meant a four hour round trip for Barbara Fretz from her rural home in the South-West, driving to Mandurah and catching the train.
Fretz would rather stand on the train than sit, refuses to be glued to her phone or laptop and became a people watcher.
During her first week, she hatched the idea for a book.
Fretz says she has become a bit of a Margaret Mead (the American anthropologist) but the difference between her research and Mead’s is the natives do not know they are being watched.
Every Friday, she wrote up her observations and the result is Sharing the Pole: My Year of Commuting to ‘The City’.
“Boring train journeys are full of hysterical characters if we but raised our eyes from phones and laptops,’’ she said.
Fretz describes the genre of her book as creative non-fiction with “a soupcon of bulls**t” and a “real blast” to write.
One of her favourite characters was a handsome middle-aged man who dressed on the train.
“When I looked up he was tucking in his shirt, zipping up his trousers and strapping on his belt,’’ she said.
Months later, she found him racing madly alongside the train on a child’s scooter.
Then there’s ‘Shirley Temple’ who belted out Broadway songs, ‘Pyro Boy’ who melted soft drink bottles with a lighter, the senior high school ‘Nadia Comaneci would-be’ who defied gravity on the overhead hand rings, ‘Stiletto Woman’, the dos and don’ts of fashion, beer drinkers, litter, obnoxious students and parents who do not look after their kids.
“It’s really interesting to take a look at human behaviour while isolated in one spot,’’ Fretz said.
“There’s always plenty going on.”
On a less humorous note, Fretz recently woke a young boy in a deep sleep when the train reached Mandurah.
“Nobody was going to wake him; train travellers seem to have no sense of responsibility, they get on the train and it’s like a door closes down and they are into Facebook and headphones,’’ she said.
For a free PDF of the book or a hard copy at $8 for printing and postage, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.