The trip was going fine. We were in one of the newer, air conditioned trams and had left Fitzroy Street and were trundling happily down the tramway. Mum, Anita, and I were sitting in the third quarter of the tram and we were a bit worried because our previous 2-hour passes were either on the verge of expiring or already expired, and the ticketing machine on the tram was out of order, so we were hoping that no ticket inspector would hop on board. The tram paused at one station, and it was then that we heard raised voices coming from the first quarter of the tram. One voice was asking a passenger to be quiet, and another - clearly not a native English speaker - was quite insistent that he was not causing a disturbance. We think the first speaker was a ticket inspector or some kind of tramways official, as my mother could just see him and he looked to be dressed in official clothing, though not like that of the drivers we'd seen. Our initial assumption, in any case, was that it was a ticket inspector and the passenger (who we could not see) was kicking up a stink because he had no ticket due to the ticket machine being out of order. This later turned out to be false. The argument escalated, with the official asking the passenger to leave the tram and the passenger retorting that he should be left on the tram and that he had a right to be there as he had a valid ticket.
The passenger sounded increasingly irate, and due to the lengthy waiting time at the station, another tram had come up behind us, so we bailed and joined that tram, partly due to concern that the official was a ticket inspector but mainly worried about the direction the argument was heading, as the passenger's aggression was mounting and he seemed incapable of being reasonable or calm. We joined the next tram, which thankfully had a working ticket machine but lacked air conditioning, which was rather important on a hot day such as yesterday. After about a minute, both trams got under way and proceeded to the next station, but there we stopped again for longer than usual. Our tram driver first announced that we were going to be in for a short wait but would hopefully proceed soon, and after a couple of minutes then came walking through the tram and informed us that we could wait out on the platform if we desired, but under no conditions should we go near the other tram as the police had been called to deal with an incident on board. So we disembarked, wondering what on earth had happened on our old tram.
As time progressed, we managed to find out some more information. It turned out that the man causing the disturbance was of East Timorese origin with - the lady who told us emphasised - a bone through his nose. He had apparently been playing some form of traditional bongo drums and had been swearing and carrying on. We are still unsure what set off the disturbance or whether he had been using offensive language prior to the argument; it seems everyone reached their own conclusions. Some think he had been playing his bongos and rapping offensive lyrics, but we certainly didn't hear anything until the argument broke out. The man sounded particularly volatile and ready to explode, but soon the passengers were let off the tram while the man remained aboard, apparently full of vitriol and anger but not physically violent. One said he was sitting on his seat, shaking from rage, refusing to go anywhere and unwilling to listen to anyone.
This situation lasted at least 20 minutes and probably longer. Four trams that we could see were queued at the station waiting for something to happen, and more may have been down the line out of sight. Passengers from the East Timorese man's tram began taking out their frustration on the drivers of the queued trams, which clearly did no-one any good at all, and I didn't see any police arrive, though they might have. Finally, the trams got under way again with the passengers from the leading one dispersed through the ones queued behind, and we proceeded into the city, none the wiser about what was happening or what consequences would face the disruptive man. It certainly added some interest into the day, though!
Lesson learnt: if your tram contains a passenger carrying bongos, find a different route!