Thursday, 16 April 2015

An encounter with an old Chinese lady (London)


I was on the Piccadilly Line Tube train for Chinatown, to have lunch with an ex-student at 12noon.  An old Chinese lady (late 70s / early 80s) got on a stop after me, at Finsbury Park, barely able to get on the train from the platform, in spite of help from a walking stick.  She laboriously made it to the second seat from the door, and her legs wobbled as she struggled to sit down, saying something aloud.  The young woman in the seat next to the door, a Westerner in her early 20s, just watched her without even offering a hand to steady her.  I was at the other end of the row opposite her, and thought she'd be bound for Chinatown, so I'd help her on the stairs up to the ground level.  

Sure enough, when we got to Leicester Square, the old lady struggled to get up.  There were too many people between her and me for me to get to her to help her up, so I got out at my end, and went to her door to offer her an arm.  She was greatly taken aback, and started to say she could manage.  I stayed with her all the same, and even when we got to the stairs and she tried to dismiss me, I remained behind her, going up step by step at a snail's pace.  Then, I helped steady her from the stairs to the escalators, and then escalator to the turnstiles, and thereafter the stairs to the ground level.  

I asked her where she was going, but didn’t understand a word of her form of Cantonese.  At the turning into Lisle Street, one of the streets in Chinatown with a high density of Chinese restaurants, I gestured, and she nodded her head.  As we walked along slowly, I saw out of the corner of my eye the words engraved on the metallic skirting board of the building along which we were walking:  The Hippodrome Casino.  

When we got to the entrance, she stopped and said, “This is where I’m going.”

(London 2015)