Friday 19 October 2007

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Tattooed Tram Man

© John Sawyer – October 2007 / February 2008

“Don’t worry mate, the tram still goes to Swanston Street. We’re just going a different way because of an accident.”

Our fellow traveller was a bit confused and when the tram went straight ahead at St. V’s he got into a bit of a panic and tried to get off.

“Thanks brother, where do I get off then?”

“Just stick here and get off the stop after us.”

The tram was running late so it was already crowded when our young friend first got on in Victoria Street. He was a bit disoriented and I’d helped steady him when he’d fallen into a group of call centre workers as the tram lurched away.

He had spiked Tintin type black hair with alabaster white streaks. He was showing a fair bit of dark skin under his blue workman’s singlet. His arms and back were covered in tattoos. His eyes were a bit foggy and he also smelt a fair bit.

“You’re a pretty decent bloke brother. Thanks for your help.”

“No worries mate” Pause while I try to pigeon hole him. “Where’d you come from mate?”

“I was born in Thailand. My mother is Cambodian and my father is Vietnamese.”

“What, so you were born in a refugee camp?”

“Yes brother, I spent 7 years in Thailand before we came to Australia. I’m 23 now.”

Most of his tatts appeared to be Polynesian swirls but the tattoo across his shoulders blazed ‘Get Rich Soon or Die Trying’.

“You’ve obviously spent a bit of time getting the tatts. Where’d you get them done?”

“Well, most were at Tattoo City in Dandenong and some at Taboo Tattoo in Whitehorse Road. These two are amateur jobs.”

He pointed behind his ear at the old fashion dollar sign with two vertical bars. He turned his left eye towards me and pointed at the three black tears on his cheek.

“Is this your wife brother? I suppose you’ve got children.”

“Yeah we’ve got two children and two grand children”.

“I suppose you love them a lot? I’ve got a young nephew – I love him. I hope he turns out OK.”

“We all put our hope in the young.”

Some months later, I searched the WWW for the meanings of various tattoos. The teardrops gave me some reason for reflection. Teardrops are usually applied in jail. Depending on the country of origin they can mean:

  • Murder
  • Murder of a fellow prisoner
  • Death of a relative while the wearer is in jail
  • And in Australia, it is applied forcibly and means the wearer is a child molester

The WWW is notoriously inaccurate.


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