Wednesday, 10 October 2012

What was she saying - eavesdropping on the tram today

Travelling on the tram today I took a seat opposite two old Chinese women.  They were travelling backwards in a bank of four seats and they both looked at me briefly when I sat down. They looked to be in their sixties or seventies.

The one on my left, nearest the window, was talking at the other woman in her language.  I had no idea what she was saying, but it soon became apparent that she wasn't being very nice to the other woman.

The other woman, the one on my right, was angled away from the other. She was wearing a white cotton hat with an elastic strap under her chin, her tartan bomber jacket was zipped to just below the strap.  Her eyes were focussed on the scenery passing by the opposite window.

All the while the woman doing the talking kept her stream of chatter up.  She would look at the other woman occasionally but keep talking as she looked away.  Her facial expression was hard to read, but her eyes showed her displeasure.

She would pause in between pronouncements, almost as if she was gathering her thoughts for the next part.  She clearly wanted a response from the other woman, but she wasn't getting it.

As this continued, neither of the women looked at me, so I could study them in detail without them becoming self-conscious.

The "victim" was slowly angling her body so that she had her back to the other woman, yet still the talk continued.  She never once turned her head.  Such discipline.

At one point, it became too much for the victim.  She raised the hand closest to the other woman and waved it in front her own ear - as if she was swatting an annoying mosquito - while shaking her head.  She said something back.  From reading the situation I believe she was saying, "Enough! Just be quiet!  Enough!"

This silenced the woman who sat with a grim look on her face, lips pursed, but mind clearing putting together her next speech.  It didn't take long before the talker started muttering under her breath again.

I wonder what was being said.

Were they fighting about how to care for their ageing parents?  The bathroom cleaning roster? The gambling addiction?  The toy boy acquired by the victim and coveted by the talker? The fact that the victim bought the wrong brand of breakfast cereal? Had backed over the cat in the driveway that morning and now they were travelling on a tram? The latest art installation that had resulted in a wing of the house being trashed and the carpet left with a smell that was never going to move?  Or the birthday voucher for botox that the victim had given to the talker? Had the top secret cloning project they'd been secretly conducting on behalf of a foreign power been ruined in a moment's distraction...?

I don't speak Cantonese, so we'll never know.

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