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.
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.