Sep 4, 2008

Baggage #1

On Monday I took the train from Geneva, Switzerland, to Montpellier, France, which involved a stop to change trains in Lyon, France. On the train to Lyon, I saw a black woman on a train, carrying her three kids. She looked tall, slender and strong as she tried to manage two toddlers and a baby at once by herself. Initially she didn't find all the seats together and put the two toddlers in one car, and sat in the next car and watched them through a window. I watched first as she efficiently changed three diapers, and then filled three baby bottles from a bottle of juice while holding the baby.

I felt a little bad for her, trying to watch over the three kids. At moments I felt like offering to help, but I always have this sense that unsolicited may be unwelcome, especially with protective mothers and their children. Maybe it's just the way I don't necessarily feel like I need people to offer me assistance most of the time. The daughter, one of the two toddlers, at first seemed quite capable of taking care of her younger brother as they sat together in the other car. Later though, as seats freed up and she came back to sit with her mother, she seemed a little out of it, first slipping on the seat as she was moving across it, and banging her head against the train wall, and again later falling off the seat completely and landing on her butt. I suspect they must have been having a long trip, since her brother was nodding off with a baby bottle in his mouth, occasionally jerking up to hold the bottle, but not sucking anything out of it.

As I got off the train, I felt a little uneasy as everyone rushed off and the woman packed her stuff and got her kids in tow. I hung around to watch, just to make sure she and her kids all got off the train. The mother got off, carrying the baby and her luggage, and looked around the platform for someone as her toddler boy stumbled off the train in a half-awake daze. The clumsy sister also stumbled off the train, and at first stepped in the crack between the train and the platform, and then fell all the way through the crack probably bumping her head and limbs against the train and platform on the way down.

I rushed over as the mom started screaming. Another woman who was just beside the train had gotten on her knees as well, and together we reached down and grabbed the girl and pulled her up, as some men stood in the train's doorway to make sure it didn't close and the train didn't move. The tracks and gravel were only about three feet down below the platform, but it was a fairly big fall I think, when the girl was much shorter than that. We managed to pull her up quickly, and returned her to the distressed mother. A station employee had been summoned and came over and checked the girls head, and a crowd gathered.

I have no idea if the station employee had any medical training, but since the woman seemed to be taken care of by plenty of native french speakers, I just went on my way. Later I saw her two boys leaving with a couple of other people that I had noticed with her on the platform. I guess the woman probably went to take care of her daughter.

I ended up feeling bad for the woman (and considering perhaps that I should have been helping her kids off the train instead of merely watching). At the same time though, it seemed almost inevitable that some sort of accident would happen considering that the woman had her hands full with luggage and two toddlers running around. It seems almost negligent to allow your children to stumble off the train by themselves. She could have put her luggage down off the train first and then helped each kid out, or vice versa. While I may be rather insensitive, it seems almost foolish to even attempt to travel alone with three small children given all the things that could go wrong. I find it difficult enough to travel around alone and keep my eye on my belongings, having three children that move around would be next to impossible. It seems like the type of situation that would require far more careful planning. I understand that perhaps this woman may have had no choice. If that were the case it must be a difficult life to have to carry around all that baggage.

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