Kindness of a stranger

This post is in response to the Daily Prompt: “Have you ever had a random encounter or fleeting moment with a stranger that stuck with you?”

It was the summer of 2010 and I was at university in St Andrews, Scotland. My parents had decided (after much convincing from my side) to come down from India to see me, and I was ecstatic. Summers in university towns can get pretty lonely, what with almost everyone going home for the holidays, so I was very much looking forward to this visit.

Now here’s the deal with St Andrews, it’s tiny, and remote. To get there from Pune, India, you have to travel four hours to the Mumbai Airport, catch a nine-hour flight to London, then an hour-long connecting flight to Edinburgh, and then you have to drive for another hour to get to here. But trust me, the views are well worth the trouble.

One of the many beautiful views in St Andrews

One of the many beautiful views in St Andrews

My parents were due to arrive at around half past ten at night and I’d gone out earlier that evening to get some take away for them (I assumed my dad wouldn’t like the airline food), and some flowers for my mum. As things would go, they arrived slightly after ten, so I had to rush to get into a cab to make my way to the hotel at which they were staying. In my hurry to meet them, I forgot the flowers. This is where the “stranger” part comes in. I explained to the cab driver how my parents were visiting from India and how I forgot the flowers I’d got my mum, and as if in a movie, he immediately turned the cab around, stopped the meter, and radioed to his head office, “We forgot the flowers, we’re going back for the flowers”. Those were his exact words. I ran up to my apartment with a grin on my face, and ran back to the cab. “All set?”, he asked. I “okayed” and we were off again. Upon reaching the hotel, I was short on change, and being the excellent person that he was, the cab driver waved me off and told me to go, have fun with my parents. I was overjoyed! I thanked him profusely for his kindness and went on to over-excitedly greeting my parents.

Now, the story doesn’t end there. It would’ve been a great story if it ended there, upon the kindness of a stranger, but unfortunately, life isn’t as movie-like as you’d hope. Many weeks later, a friend and I were taking a cab into town, and we got, what seemed like the same kind cab driver, but I wasn’t sure if it was him. He didn’t say anything himself, perhaps he was waiting to see if I’d remember him. Only about halfway through the ride was I actually sure that this was the same person who’d helped a kid out on a cold Scottish night. By then I felt too awkward to bring it up, so we just spent the rest of the ride in silence. I wish I could tell you that I said something to him at the end of the ride, but I didn’t. I just thanked him excessively for this ride he’d given us, hoped he understood what I was actually thanking him for, and got out of the cab.

It’s been three years since that summer and I still wish I’d done things differently on that second ride. Maybe I’ll return to St Andrews someday and by some mysterious coincidence run in to that kind stranger, and thank him properly for his niceness. But until that happens, I’m going to try to be very aware of the nice things that people do for me, and make sure I thank them.

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“If you want to impress me, compliment my mind” – a writer for Christina Yang

“I’ve told her she’s smart. I constantly tell her she’s the only funny girl I know. I go for art movies with her even though I think that stuff’s too pretentious. I listen to her ramble on about her favourite books and tv shows. I’m even nice to her overbearing mother! Yet, I get nothing!” Steve exasperated. “Her Facebook profile says her favourite quote is ‘If you want to impress me, compliment my brain’. Now, other than saying something daft like ‘I think you’re Einstein’, I don’t know in how many more ways I can tell her that she’s the smartest person I know!”

John nodded patiently as Steve went on, “She treats me like I’m one of her girlfriends, mate! She’ll tell me about the boys she’s mad at, she’ll point out the ones she fancies when we go out, and she’s always talking about that Joseph Gordon bloke! It’s like I’m some sort of asexual being to her.”

“Are you sure she’s not seriously into someone else?”, asked John.

“I don’t know. She’s got tonnes of guy friends but she doesn’t particularly talk of anyone she likes. I just don’t know.”

“Have you actually considered just asking her out?”

“What? And ruin what little we have going right now?”

“But what you have right now is clearly not working for you! Do you know that this is the third time you’ve gone on about this in the last week?”

“Hey!”

“Hey what?”

“Ugh, I don’t know. I have to go. I’m meeting her for coffee.”

“Dude, just tell her and get it over with. If she likes what she hears, hurrah, you can be an annoying happy prick, if not, we’ll go get smashed and get over it.”

Steve laughed, “Bye, John”.

He walked out of his apartment and made his way to the coffee shop. She was already sitting at their regular table by the window.

He walked up to her, slightly nervous. “Hey, Amy!”

She looked up from a book she was reading, “Oh, hey Steve! You know you’re late”.

He looked at his watch, “Just five minutes! That doesn’t count.”

“It would if there was a nuclear missile headed to destroy earth and you had to press a big red button to stop it but you didn’t because you were late and then we’d all be dead.”

He looked at her quizzically; Amy had a way of saying these things and then he didn’t know how to react. “Alright then, Amy, I’m sorry I’m late”.

Always best to apologise when in doubt, he thought.

She smiled, that gorgeous smile of hers which could light up any room, and said “It’s ok. I have some exciting news!”

“Oh, what’s up?”

“Jeremy asked me out!”, she squealed.

Steve was stunned, “What?”

“Jeremy! Remember? 6’2, handsome, a bit thick, but hey, nobody’s perfect”, she said grinning.

“Are you kidding me?”, Steve stood up and continued with a raised voice, “Are you seriously kidding me?”.

Amy looked around her in embarrassment, “Steve, what is wrong with you? Sit down!”

“I will not sit down. Jeremy? Really? Jeremy? The bloke you met five days ago, whom you compared to a male version of Marilyn Monroe, who thought you were called Annie for the first two days of knowing you, that Jeremy?”

“Steve, sit down! Why are you so offended?”

People were starting to look now.

“Why am I offended? Why? Oh, I don’t know, maybe because I’M INVISIBLE TO YOU!”, he bellowed.

Amy got up, took Steve by the arm and led him outside.

“What has gotten into you?”, she asked angrily.

“Amy, don’t you see! I’ve been nicest person in the world to you since the day I met you! I’ve done everything you wanted, I’ve even thought of the things you didn’t say you want, but I know you’d want, and done those! I’ve been nice, I’ve been as funny as I can be, I’ve laughed at all your jokes, I’ve listened to everything you’ve said, and I even complimented your beautiful brain—the one thing you say you want from a guy!”

Amy looked at her feet, took a deep breath, and looked back up. There were tears in her eyes. “You call my brain beautiful. You call my brain beautiful but you never, ever..” she was bawling now.

“Amy..”, he tried to hold her but she pushed him away.

“No. You never, you’ve never called me BEAUTIFUL!”, it was her turn to shout now. “You say it about every third girl you see! You tell me about how you find Sheila attractive, and Jane weirdly cute, and Anne, oh, you can’t stop going on about her eyes, but what about me? I get that I’m not conventionally pretty, I get that. And I’m not asking you to lie and say that I am, but at least have the courtesy to not tell me how every other girl in the world, other than me is beautiful, while I’m just smart! And I don’t need you to tell me I’m smart, I know I am! Every second person tells me I am!”

Steve was stunned, he didn’t know what to say. He tried putting his arms around her again but she just pushed him away again.

“Please don’t cry,” he implored “I.. I think you’re very beautiful. I think you’re one of the prettiest girls I know. But I don’t tell you that because I don’t want you to think that’s what I want from you. I.. I want you to know that I want you, all of you.”

Her sobbing began to slow down a bit.

“I say all those other girls are beautiful only when you’re talking about other guys. Think about it, I’ve never said it other than when you’re talking about other guys. It was just my way of dealing with my own jealousy. And, I’m.. I’m sorry.”

She looked at him for a while, trying to control her tears, “I like you too.”

“What?”

“I like you too”, she repeated.

“What about Jeremy?”

“I was just trying to move on from you.. I didn’t think you fancied me.”

“I..”

Amy didn’t let him finish, she pressed her body against his and just let him embrace her.

*This post was written for the Daily Prompt: Silver Screen— “Take a quote from your favorite movie — there’s the title of your post. Now, write!”