Saturday, 15 September 2012

Hatred on the trains today - the unanswered question.

I've taken to catching the train to choir rehearsal on Saturdays.  I used to drive, but I found coming home a real drag.  I'd always hit football traffic and it didn't seem to matter which route I took, there was gridlock.  I decided to take the train and see what that was like.  It's quicker in both directions and I usually have time to buy a coffee for the second leg of the journey leaving from Flinders Street Station.  I also build in some extra reading time in my day.

Catching the train on weekends can be an experience as the patrons seem to come from a different world.  It's not workers going to work.  It seems to be junkies, strung out on their way to visit their dealer, or comatose junkies on their way back from seeing their dealer.

This morning everything ran smoothly until the second leg of the journey.  The carriage I was in wasn't very full.  Most people around me had a block of four seats to themselves and all the groups of four were filled.  There was an ostinato of quiet conversation.

Then a woman behind me yelled, in her best scrag voice: "I wasn't talking to YOU! That was a comment I made to my BOYFRIEND!"

A male responded: "You want to kill all Moslems?  Do you? Huh? Huh?  You and your weak boyfriend?"

A ripple of fear went through the carriage.  I turned slightly to see what was going on, but was aware that I didn't want to catch anyone's attention.  A few older women quietly moved seats into the front of the carriage where I was.

The yelling continued.  The boyfriend said nothing, he was wired, but there was fear in his eyes.   He was small, but wiry, with the aged face and spoiled teeth of a junkie.  It was the woman who was spoiling for the fight.

She continued to scream at the two men as the train pulled into West Richmond Station: "Leave me alone! It was nothing to do with you! Go AWAY!"

"Yeah, bitch? You want to fight? You say you're too good for us.  You hate all Moslems?"

You get the idea of the exchange if you just repeat, alternating the phrases.

I was finding it difficult to follow the thread of the argument and was pleased when the train stopped at the station and the woman and her boyfriend exited.  The two men continued to taunt her with obscenities.  She obviously thought she was now at a safe distance as she stood aggressively and poked her tongue out at them.  It seemed a bizarre gesture, childish almost, in this intensely adult situation.  It was like a spark on a drop of petrol.  They forced the doors of the train open and continued to hurl abuse at her.  By this time the boyfriend was using the public phone at the station (who does that anymore?) and was leaving the girl to argue on her own behalf.

I didn't know what to do.  I find these situations intimidating because they feel so volatile.  It feels as though a hint of eye contact with the wrong person at the wrong moment could be the spark that ignites the bonfire.  Should I get off the train and wait for the next one?  I've moved carriages before in this kind of situation and been abused and followed as I've moved.  I didn't want to draw any attention to myself.  I stayed where I was.

As the doors of the train closed and the train drew out of the station, the two men addressed the carriage: "Anyone in here want to kill all Moslems?"

Nobody said a word.  By this time, we onlookers weren't even looking at each other.  Silence seemed to be the answer they wanted.  My station came quickly and I was glad to be out of there.

I didn't hear what the woman said to her boyfriend at the start.  I could assume it probably wasn't very nice, but I don't think the response of the two men was helpful to them as individuals or to people of their faith.

Why can't we all just get along?  That's my simple wish for the world.

1 comment:

  1. Wow those situations are very difficult to deal with. Often people over react and get abusive at the situation because of built-up emotions surrounding the clearly sensitive topic. But at the same time its also not necessary to get so aggressive either. I second your simple wish.