The second half of bus 92's circuit runs along a pretty upscale track, going from the Champs-Elysees, through the seventh (near-ish to the Eiffel tower) and continuing on through the well-off neighborhoods until finally coming to a halt at the Gare Montparnasse. I ride the bus at least once a week, sometimes more. I have always found the ride pleasant, as there are usually fewer people than on the other lines, and those that are on the bus are usually older women or young professionals. Everyone pretty much keeps to themselves, reading or just watching the city whiz by.
That's why it came as such a surprise today when a young woman came on with a vocally grumpy child at the stop Alma-Marceau. As they walked by me, I saw his tear-streaked four-year-old face and thought, "Aww...poor guy...he's a little cranky."
But then the woman took him to the far back of the bus, about three rows behind me, where there is a "roundabout" of six seats that form a very wide U shape. She sat him down in the middle of this, upright despite his natural inclination to get horizontal. When he eventually slumped down, exhausted from fatigue, she became angry, made him sit upright and yelled at him to do so forecefully that many of the passangers turned around to see what the commotion was about. He began crying again and put his head down on the seat next to him, against her leg. Violently, she started shaking him and flopping him around on the back seats, eventually standing up and literally pounding him onto the seats like a doll.
I heard the racket but didn't recognize what was going on until all those people around her actually got up to CLEAR SPACE for the battle. It was then that I turned around and saw.
Horrified, I sat frozen for a moment, and then turned back, facing forward, not sure what to do.
Luckily, an older woman two seats away from the little boy took charge, and started loudly telling the young woman with the child that she had to stop. After another thirty seconds or so, she finally did.
I was really disturbed and flustered. I had never seen such open violence towards a little boy in a public place. The apathy of everyone around me was heartbreaking, and yet I realized that I had done nothing to stop the scene myself.
But then the two women began talking. I could only hear bits and pieces over the engine of the bus. The woman who had intervened said something along the lines of, "You can't treat him like that. When children are tired like that, you have to just let them sleep, no matter where they are. Children don't have the same stamina as we do." The woman with the child responded something unintelligible in a strange voice - it sounded almost as if she were deaf (which she couldn't have been because she was talking to the woman from across the bus). Much to my horror, the older woman continued to ask questions and it was revealed that the younger woman was not his mother, but was his babysitter. They continued to talk for a few minutes, and then the younger woman got off the bus, smiling and telling the little boy to "wave bye-bye to the nice lady." It was surreal, as if she hadn't just been beating this little child and that that "nice lady" hadn't just broken up the scene.
Afterwards, the older woman discussed the situation with her neighbor two seats away. I could understand their conversation much better because they were facing me, and I learned that the young woman with the child worked for an association of qualified nannies that are there to look over children while their parents are at work. Parents trust these organizations because their workers are certified, and because I suppose they think that finding someone from a program might be better than choosing a stranger off the street. Little do they know, it's practically the same thing.
I couldn't help but wonder how much this boy's parents know about what's going on. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about it. But I pray that whenever I do have children, that I will actually know and trust any caretaker of my child. I cannot imagine what his parents would do had they seen what happened today on the bus.