I took a tram into Croydon this morning. There's one shop there which I don't have in my local neighbourhood, so I like to browse around there occasionally. I like travelling on the tram. It appeals to my sense of loss of not living anymore in Germany where trams are the norm and gives me just a small sense of feeling I am living somewhere foreign, which is not entirely deluded.
The tram is full of all kinds of nationalities, creeds and persuasions. The streets reflect the same. Glancing out of the window there are Latvian shops, Polish supermarkets, Jamaican cafes. There's even a tramstop called Lebanon Road, where you could easily be, if you happen to count the number of burkahs walking along the road. Croydon has the potential to be one big melting pot, although the people don't always "melt" ......the recent tensions in the London riots a couple of years ago showed this. I suspect people do tend to get on well with one another, if given the chance, but Croydon has turned into a rather drab poverty-stricken area, where even the very fabric of the buildings shrieks for improvement and some TLC.
Across the aisle from me on the tram sat a very young black mother. A girl in her early twenties with a small toddler of about 2 years, if that, next to her. At first, the child sat glued to the window (just like me), looking at all the interesting things going by on a sunny Monday morning. Not so his mother. She sat, face down less than six inches away from her mobile phone, texting. The child babbled turning excitedly to point out things to her, but still she texted. On and on she texted, as the tram went from stop to stop, never lifting her head once to glance at her son. The boy began to fidget and lost his shoe, trying to crawl under the seat to get it, but he was not able to reach it. He tried to get his mother's attention, but she was too busy texting and dragged him roughly back onto his seat. He sat there dangling one foot in a sock, the other with a shoe, looking under the seat at his lost shoe and by now his mother was distracted by something else - she was scrolling down to find something on the internet. The little fellow then got off the seat again and onto his knees, still trying to retrieve his shoe. At this point the mother, who remember had her mobile phone in one hand, whacked him in the chest with her free hand and dragged him forcefully by the scruff of his clothes back to his seat. As she did so, she caught his head against the hard base of the seat which caused him to break out into howls and screams. To stop him getting off the seat again, she used her large handbag to pin him down and carried on staring into her mobile phone again, completely ignoring him. The boy howled and howled. The noise was deafening. People stared into their laps or at the ceiling. Anywhere but at the boy. The woman opposite me began to tutt in disgust and I muttered as loudly as I could that the mother had had her head in the mobile phone for the entire journey. No reaction from the mother or anyone else. The howling went on until eventually it subsided into a few sobs and then quiet. Still the mum went on texting.
I am ashamed to say that NOBODY (me included) did or said a single damn thing. Going through my head was all the things I wanted to say to that mother. The poor kid was starved of attention or stimulation. The mother looked no more than a kid herself. Kids having kids. But did I say anything? Sure as hell, no. And I'm ashamed of myself. I've spent the entire morning worrying about that little kid. Worrying about what slap he's getting now and what he's going to grow up like. And when the girl and her son got off the tram, everyone was glad they could stop looking in their lap. Shame on us all.