The Kindness of Strangers

A couple of weeks ago, Gayle, my housemate, and I went for a drink to catch up with each other. We might share a flat but that doesn’t mean that we’re ever in it at the same time. After having drunk some large glasses of wine, I had the munchies and decided to go around the corner to Pizza Hut and buy garlic bread.
The guy in the shop was a bit nonplussed by the request for garlic bread (with cheese) and nothing else but nipped off into the back and rustled it up for us. Out he came with it in a box and I got out my card to pay and he said ‘Don’t bother with that, just take it’ and then walked off so that we had no option but to accept his kindness.
We were very very pleased with ourselves.
It seems to me that the world works alright, but that kindness oils the machinery and makes everything turn a bit more smoothly and without any annoying squeaks.
Around the corner from where I work is a dank old man’s pub that we seem to end up in for drinks some Friday lunchtimes. In the streets around are various restaurants and cafes and they all deliver food on plates to this pub, which doesn’t serve food of its own. I’ve never seen anything like it, but it clearly works for all concerned. It would be so easy for them all to say ‘This is our business and this is yours and we’ll keep it that way’ but instead they have a nice neighbourly reciprocal thing going on that seems to benefit all concerned, particularly us on our lunch break! They don’t need the kindness for their businesses to work, but it helps everything run much more smoothly.
With all this in mind, when I was driving home from my parents’ a couple of weekends ago, I spotted a couple of lads, students, in matching t-shirts, trying to hitch to Prague for charity at Stafford services. Their whiteboard said: South. You can’t get more general than that, but it didn’t seem to be getting them anywhere. They’d left Manchester at nine that morning, and had only got as far as Stafford by seven in the evening when I saw them. I know it’s reckless and outrageously dangerous for a woman on her own to pick up hitchers, but I just felt so sorry for these guys that I offered them a lift. They nearly turned me down, thinking that London wasn’t Dover and therefore no good. I pointed out to them that London is further south and nearer to Dover than Stafford. So they accepted the ride. The Prague Hitch happens every year, but these guys had found that lorry drivers wouldn’t give them a lift because of insurance and that that left them pretty much scuppered. It turned out one of these lads had a brother living in Clapham so I brought them all the way back with me.
When I dropped them off, this guy, who was a Geordie, just stood on the street and kept repeating to himself: “I’m in London, I can’t believe I’m actually in London.” So sweet and innocent, I was loving it!
You can track the hitchers online to find out how they are progressing in their travels and these two ended up giving up in the Netherlands and catching the Eurostar back. It’s a shame that the kindness wouldn’t flow far enough for them to get to Prague. But then maybe kindness is meant to be a surprise, rather than something you rely upon as a means to an end.

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One response to “The Kindness of Strangers

  1. I can’t believe you disobeyed the hitching rules – I mean it worked out fine, which is what matters, but man, living on the edge. Although, having said that, perhaps it was more those boys living on the edge by accepting a ride with you. Just glad the car made it!

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