In the tram sits a man that asks me if I perhaps want his seat. I’m tempted to tell him that I am 25 years old, and perfectly capable of standing. Instead I smile at him. He doesn’t find it appropriate to be sitting, while a lady is standing, he says. I tell him I appreciate that, but that I do not mind standing.
Other passengers look up briefly, and stare out of the window again, or at their phone screens.
If my accent is Dutch, he asks me. “Amsterdam or Rotterdam? Rotterdam is the city with the biggest harbour of Europe, and it used to be the biggest of the world. Did you know that?”
“And what do you find of the situation in the Middle East?”
Slightly overwhelmed I ask him to clarify whích situation in the Middle East he’s referring to. “The Syrian refugees in Europe,” he replies matter-of-factly.
Yes that is horrible. But what a topic for an early Wednesday morning? “Yes, that is a great way to wake up. I am from England. Back in the day I worked there in a company, making shoes. They say the British would’ve come out of the war very different if it wasn’t for the boots.” Expectantly he gazes at me. “Shoes are very important,” I nod in agreement.
The man shakes my hand and introduces himself as ‘John’. “Look, this is my mother-in-law. Her daughter just gave birth. She weighs three pounds.” – answers his phone- “Yes, three pounds, our little daughter! What did you say? Oh, I’m just talking to a lady on the tram. She’s from Rotterdam. Or Amsterdam.”
Through the glass I see the tram is at my destination. “This is my stop, sir.” Still on the phone, the man looks up and shakes my hand again.
The other passengers are staring out of the window, or at their phones.