Sunday, May 18, 2008

Unaccostumed to City Living

Now that I live in a city and have to deal with people on daily basis, I am frequently distraught and thrilled by human acts. I will frequently give up my seat to anyone who just looks tired on the tram. And I am amazed by the small acts of kindness that the Australian public show on a moment-to-moment basis on the public transport. A young man last week who was bopping to music on his Ipod noticed as we approached a stop that an elderly gentleman was pushing a heavy looking grocery cart. The young man stood up and unceremoniously helped the gentleman lift the cart up the steps onto the tram. I fell a little bit in love.

I am taking a dance class in Fitzroy/Brunswick. It’s from 7:30-8:30 at night in a part of town that I am not overly comfortable being in. The trams run infrequently after 7; and I am always concerned that I’ll be left out in this poorly lit street indefinitely. On Thursday night, a man was sitting at the tram stop hacking up phlegm and shovelling Thai curry and rice into his mouth. A young Indian man was talking on the phone and waiting for the tram also. The Thai eating man started to scream profanities at the Indian telling him to go home, mate, to leave the country. Rice spewing out of his mouth as he angrily repeated his sentiments to the poor Indian.

My discomfort was acute. My imagination running worst case scenarios in my head of how this possibly could end. The poor Indian guy looking hurt and disgruntled while the clearly brain-addled old man worked himself up into a rage.

The old man finally stood up, screaming at the Indian to “get the fuck out of this country.” The Indian started to walk away, and for a brief moment I was standing between them. I wish I could say I did something heroic. That I looked the old man in the eye and told him to sit back down, or that I somehow deflated the situation. But I didn’t. I looked down until I noticed that the tram had arrived, and watched as the Indian and I rushed to get on it. The old man screaming after the quickly departing tram.

When I got back to my apartment, alarmed, disgruntled, and utterly exhausted. I changed into my pajamas. As I took my shirt off, a clump of rice fell off my shoulder. Proof that no one left that particular street corner without being permanently stained.

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