“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s a feeling of dread. Maybe you’ve experienced it before.
You’re heading home from a hard day at the office, negotiating through fellow commuters and suddenly the hunger pangs demand that you give attention to your stomach. Visualising that supper at home 2hrs away just isn’t cutting it and in any case, knowing that you will be going it alone as your partner has had to answer to an urgent call-out means a takeaway is the remaining viable option.
The enticing takeaway joints are just too much as you make it to your connecting terminal for the last leg of your commute. Will it be sushi or a cornish pastie? Or perhaps a skinny latte with a cookie? I really dislike that description. Why the need to give fancy names to what is basically coffee in milk,I give up! In this case white coloured liquid with coffee, is something I’ve long given up hope in asking.
But I’m hungry and I haven’t eaten since…well, let’s just not go there. The sushi bar has run out of stuff and I don’t fancy a pastry. I definitely don’t want to eat rice. So that leaves good Ol’ McDonald! Quick fix it’ll be!
No sooner I’m I sat down trying to chomp through my meal, when some guy arrives asking if I don’t mind sharing my table as he proceeds to drop off his laptop case and some other bag in the chair opposite me. At least I think that’s what he’s asking. I’m listening to Tony Braxton banging on about some dude who is So yesterday! I think I replied to the guy… because he went off and left me to mind his property.
Midstream of Tony’s so Yesterday rendition, I think to myself, crap! Could this guy have left me to look after something that could cost me a chance to live out my life to old age? What exactly did he say to me anyway? I should have taken the takeaway option and eaten on the tube – much to the annoyance of fellow commuters.
As I’m about to raise my concern to the staff, the owner returns mumbling something about there not being anyone to give him a direct answer. He then proceeds to get on all fours to plug his laptop in to the power socket. He is rather of a generous frame in body and believe me, for such a person of this size to do that, you too would stop mid-track to witness. I now deduce what he initially said. He asked if I didn’t mind him sharing my table because it was near to a power socket.
By this time, I’ve listened to Tony Braxton’s Yesterday and unto to her affirmation that she’s all Woman. Who actually would question her on this? My meal almost over, I’m contemplating what next when my temporary table sharing guy goes back to his all fours routine. Weird things happen to me …but it so happens he’s in search of his earphones that dropped. Apologetically he tells me he’s not a perve. I tell him, he shouldn’t be that much concerned. Given the way I’m dressed, he’d need to have x-ray vision and besides, looking never hurt so long as it never led to touching, I tell him.
Big mistake. I think. For somebody that only intended to make a pit-stop I got drawn in to a fascinating story of a man who has been a global traveler that claims to have worked for a mining company in Africa, ex-soldier-cum-catholic charity aider. He said he was born in Angola, considered his home as being Congo but had an American passport (and accent) which prevented him from drawing European benefits even though his family resided in Belgium! Are you confused? So was I. But he had battle scars and the way of the homeless about him which was rather tragic given his age. The laptop is just a ruse to enable him to get in to places and rest his feet/body for a while and even catch some sleep amongst fellow humans that will not aim to make off with it.
I find it fascinating listening and observing fellow humans. Perhaps this is what drew my humanity to empathise. From the narratives of his life’s journey, I deduced a lonely old, but proud man albeit still cunning enough to survive. For how long though, is anyone’s guess. Maybe he spurn me a yarn for audience and some cash donation, but given how he was able to talk about how he got from being a high flyer residing in a prestigious part of London’s Mayfair to being a homeless person, touched at the human soul. Life dishes out surprises at every corner that you can never be certain what will be coming around.
Karma is indeed a powerful thing. For his sake, I hope he can make peace with his ghosts and family. Where possible, spare a thought or deed for fellow humans.