photo courtesy of Darren Copley, via flickr.com

photo courtesy of Darren Copley, via flickr.com

This post was originally about 4 different “Dick Moves!” but that was good for no one, and particularly not for my sense of love towards my fellow man.

I was a bit down this afternoon, frustrated with the rude folks I’ve encountered while traveling, frustrated with myself for not handling things better. I felt burnt out from the last few weeks of travel, and it might very well be that I’d lost my sense of enthusiasm and patience somewhere along the way. Quite possibly somewhere in Newark Airport.

I just don’t have the thick-skin required to deal with people shouting and growing impatient with me. With a directness that I can’t see as anything but harsh.

As much as I love New York (or most big cities, for that matter) it makes it difficult to spend time there. Spoiler: the guy in the subway offering directions is going to hit you up for money when he’s done. And half the time, he doesn’t even know where to send you. It’s enough to make you wary and jaded.

Enough to make you pull some Dick Moves of your own, I suspect, and that helps no one.

But then, just as quickly as I seem to lose faith in people, I find it again. Today, I was looking for the Old Operating Theater Museum and Herb Garret in London (more on that next week). I knew I was close, but not exactly sure where I was. And I heard a voice ask me, “You lost, love?”

He was tall and handsome – and looked about 18. That was the funniest part, because the idea of a kid calling me “love”, something my English uncle calls me, seemed kind of absurd. And immediately, I was suspicious. I didn’t think that he could be offering me help innocently, or honestly, or without some agenda. I watched to see if he was signaling to some co-hort that I would be an easy mark, found myself clutching my bag, waiting anxiously for him to ask for a couple of pounds in return for some directions.

But he did none of that. Instead, he politely steered me in the right direction, saying, “It’s right there, love. Have a nice time.”

And … and well … What do you then? What do you when you start to lose your faith in humanity and some kid with a nice smile and dark eyes goes and restores it for you? (In some instances, you marry him. But you already know that story.)

I thanked him, a bit shocked about the whole exchange. No hidden agenda, no plans to rob me. It was a good deed, pure and simple. But along with it came my renewed sense of love for seeing new things, for meeting new people, for travel as a whole.

A few hours later, I was waiting in line to scan my card at the subway station. And some impatient jerk behind me said, “Are you going to fucking go, or what?” Just a little while earlier, his comment would have stung.

But now?

I thought about the young man who helped me. And I thought about my husband, and the fateful day I saw him on the bus, getting up to give his seat to a grey-haired old lady.

Then I thought about the jerk behind me in line. And frankly, he didn’t stand much of a chance. After we had both made it through the turnstile, I turned to him and smiled. And blew him a kiss.

Sometimes, kindness is its own reward. And sometimes, the look of bewilderment and shame and horror across some jerk’s face is.

(P.S. – sorry for popping out of order a bit with a quasi-London post. I’ll be finishing up NYC this week, and catching up on LDN next week).

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Comments (4)

  1. 1
    Grant Lingel says:

    Don’t you love when something so small and sincere can negate so many larger annoyances from the past? As a New Yorker, I have to deal a lot of that nonsense, so when someone comes along with a smile or a simple ‘thank you’, it’s quite refreshing. Great post!

  2. 2
    Anne says:

    I had a similar experience visiting London (with the cute, youngish guy offering help — not the a-hole in the train). I was really surprised at how many Londoners proactively volunteered directions, advice, etc. Traveling certainly takes its toll, so it was refreshing to encounter genuinely nice strangers. I usually try to fit in when I’m traveling, but I suppose there is an upside to standing out like a sore thumb (a.k.a. American) — people take pity on you! I try to return the favor to those lost souls wandering the streets of Portland. Seems like the very least we can do for one another!

  3. 3
    Andi says:

    Lovely. I know this post is super old but thought i’d share a nice story about Londoners too.
    It was my first day/time in London embarking on my 1 year of studying for my Masters there and I knew no one! I had 2 very large and heavy suitcases with me that I was trying to heave up the stairs in the Kings Cross underground when two gentlemen (not 1 but 2! And they didn’t know each other either) offered to carry my suitcases up the 2 flights of stairs! I told them that they were very heavy but they said “No problem.” And without another word, effortlessly lifted them to the top, setting them down gently. I thanked them and they said ‘you’re welcome’ and continued on their way. It was a great way to be welcomed to a new city where you feel alone and a little uncertain of why you came. For that reason (and many many others) is why I love London and every time I go there, I feel like I’m coming home.

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  1. The Everywhereist » Blog Archive » The Old Operating Theater Museum and Herb Garret - 12. Nov, 2009

    [...] entrance to the museum all together had it not been for the kindness of one stranger in particular: some kid who kept calling me “love” and who was not, as I had erroneously suspected, trying to steal my purse. He pointed out the [...]

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