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Wednesday, 2 January 2019

People being kind to strangers on public transport over the holiday period

This is a meditation: a piece of nonfiction that has a unifying theme. This piece also has a secondary theme. Can you identify it? I started writing these pieces for the blog at the beginning of 2018.

On the day after Boxing Day I was on the way to meet some friends in Enmore for lunch. I caught the light rail. There was a young woman in the carriage who got on after me and sat down opposite me on a seat. She wore a short black dress and she had a large tattoo on her left forearm that was plainly visible. In her right hand she held two plastic bags that contained something that I assumed was food. The bags were resting on the floor of the carriage as she held them.

Next to me were a young Asian couple who had a baby in a stroller in front of them. The little girl was awake and very curious. The young woman opposite me was making faces to make the little girl smile and the child was very happy. As the train approached Central Station, the mother opened up a tote bag she was carrying and took out two folded plastic tote bags that she gave to the woman with the tattoo, who spoke and so I heard her accent. She had been born somewhere else and could have been from Spain or South America or Russia. As I got off the Asian woman was still talking with the young woman in the black dress, who had put her food in the new bags.

The next day I was on the way to Newtown for what turned out to be a terrible movie and I sat in the carriage near the doors after boarding a train at Central Station. A young Asian woman, who was probably aged about 25, got on the train with me and sat down opposite me. As she entered the carriage she gave me a look for an instant. She had bare feet and on her head she wore a black cap with multiple studs on the front. Both her hands were in black leather gloves. She wore a black dress with lace on the shoulders and chest.

On the same bench she was sitting on sat a man in his late 30s or early 40s. He was overweight and had a bag at his feet that contained a box with 'Star Wars' printed on it. "You have to wrap your present," she said to him. "It’s a present for me," he said, pointing at his chest with one of his hands. They started talking. "What’s the difference between ones for children and ones for adults," she asked, referring to the box of Star Wars branded gear he had in his bag. "Difficulty," he said. The conversation progressed and it ranged from Star Wars to science fiction, which they evidently both enjoyed watching. They talked until the woman got off the train at Newtown. "You have a lovely day," the man said enthusiastically as she stood up to leave the carriage. I also got off. She walked up the stairs from the platform ahead of me. Her ankles and the tops of her feet were clean.

Two days later I was coming home after having lunch in western Sydney and on the light rail when we arrived at a stop a little boy aged about six got on and came through the carriage looking hot and exhausted. He came to where I was sitting and the Asian man who had sat down in the aisle seat opposite me, and who was thin and probably aged in his late 20s, got up suddenly and picked up the boy and deposited him on his seat. “Say thank-you,” said the boy’s father. “Thank you,” said the boy in a small voice. He had a thin ponytail at the back of his head and most of his hair was cropped to about an inch in length. He sat there biting his cap with his legs deposited sideways in the seat.

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