A story of thanks
I only planned to write on Wednesdays and Fridays but always maintained that if something special or exceptional were to happen a sneaky record may be made. Consider this blog 12.5; a snack to keep you going until midweek. There’s a little story I want to relate that happened after work last Friday that definitely warrants being classified as special and exceptional.
A bit of back-story first. I had lost my wallet; not on the Saturday that just came but the week before. Driving licence, debit card, student I.D, Jesters’ and Tesco club cards- the lot. Really crucial bits and pieces that become extensions of your very being and, without which, leaves you feeling incredibly vulnerable, even naked. The big three items; licence, Barclaycard and Southampton Uni I.D are so essential to the mechanisms of my life and it’s pathetic how much reliance I place on such small, flimsy bits of plastic. I look about 12 so my driver’s licence stops me getting hassled in pubs. The debit card ensures I actually have some cash to live off. Overdraft money admittedly but still. And the student I.D is my portal to all the perks and opportunities being an undergrad bring- gym membership, access to the library and a free cheeseburger at McDonald's. So you can imagine how ill I felt, waking up on that Sunday morning with none of these in my possession. I was out the night before at a house party and the few drinks had there didn’t help my state of being. But the loss of the wallet was definitely the pivotal reason for the cannonball of anxiety festering in my stomach.
The week after this I tried my best to not bring my (replacement) bankcard out with me. Made sure I topped up my Oyster online, had enough cash to see me through the day. Didn’t bring my only other form of I.D out, my passport, on the two counts that my picture looks like a crimewatch classic and if I were to lose that there’d be proper hell to pay. This tactic of basically bringing to work nothing worked pretty well. Until Friday.
About seven quid on my Oyster and the same amount in cash were all I brought with me that day. I calculated that the funds on my Oyster were just enough to see me to central London and back again. I also brought some food with me so hey no need to worry. I’ll be fine. [Shakes head at recollecting my stupidity]
Ended up grabbing some extra food at lunchtime and spent all but three pounds. Looking back, whilst the chilli prawn wrap was great, the nuts were perhaps the most regretful snack I’ve ever bought. Not begrudging the superhuman amount of salt on them, though they did dry up my mouth as if I were munching Jacob’s crackers in the Sahara. But because they put into play a series of rather unfortunate events.
After the working week had finished, I really felt a drink was in order. Laura, from downstairs, agreed. It was only after we were heading out of London Bridge tube station that I realized all I had on me were three scuffed up pound coins. Great. Looking for a drink in central London for under 3 quid. Praise be for Wetherspoons...
Managed to procure a cheeky pint and in the process of consumption beat my own personal best for making a drink last for an embarrassingly long amount of time. Then it was the journey home. And what I didn’t realize was the journey from Farringdon to Tower Bridge had taken out just enough from my Oyster Card to ensure the gates at the station were barred to me. Fifteen pence in my pocket, ₤1.70 (I needed an extra 20p to get through the barriers) on my Oyster and no debit card. In central London this kind of thing does not bode well. By ignoring the Boy Scout’s mantra to ‘be prepared’ I had unquestionably thrust myself into a slightly sticky situation.
I paced to a local library and looked in a London A-Z. Just over 12 miles back to my place in Woodford. Hmmm. I have walked four miles or so at once in the past. It would just be that multiplied by three, if my maths was correct (it usually isn’t). For some reason though, the thought of trudging through the streets of London back home after a heavy day of work did not appeal. Also, with my grasp of directions I was just as likely to end up in Croydon as Woodford. Geography wasn’t my subject at school at all. Colouring in was never my forte.
Busking probably wasn’t an option either. Firstly, officials and London Underground staff do not look kindly upon unlicensed musicians. Perhaps more significantly, I have the musical talent of a gadfly. I cannot carry a tune in a wheelbarrow.
Walking up to a member of staff at the gates, I was feeling a mite apprehensive. I’m not so keen on asking people for a free ride. But I was in luck. The lady at the barrier was attentive to my situation, understanding of my stupidity and absolutely fantastic in spirit. She told me not to worry and took me to a top up machine. There, she pressed a 50 pence piece into my hand thus allowing me to get home that night. Absolute gratitude doesn’t begin to convey it. I gave her the biggest hug I could and she laughed and told me to try not to let it happen again.
I bring up this story because it made me really consider the generosity of strangers. When one is in desperate need there are people willing to help, to assist, to contribute and not expect anything in return. I’m not suggesting such altruism exists everywhere in the world. The horrific events in Norway demonstrate humanity’s capacity for evil. But with such acts of kindness as the one I had the tremendous fortune to experience occurring, I see hope. Hope for the future and hope for ourselves. It doesn’t sound much at all- 50p is not usually a lifesaving amount of money. But charity is recognized through the act’s value to those who benefit, not the amount given. What can seem like a trifle to us can be massively appreciated by those on the receiving end. There are so many people who need our aid and our support. It would be impossible for one person to help them all. Together however, it might just happen.