Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Bit of Chivalry

On Saturday, the 19th of April, I was traveling up to Withernsea, to do my radio show. I happened to be walking from Victoria Tube Station, in London, to Victoria Coach Station, to get a bus to Hull. As I started to cross the road, I noticed an attractive, blond, young woman, struggling with several pieces of luggage. She had so much stuff, I figured she must be travelling with someone else. Normally, I don't get involved. Hey! I'm a New Yorker. I keep my head down and mind my own business. This time, something caused me to break the habit of a lifetime.
My inertia carried me beyond the girl. I was one quarter of the way across the road, past her, but still looking back at her. I wondered if she could be alone. I don't know why I did, but I turned back. Maybe it was because I was still smarting from the twenty-something, oriental woman giving me her seat, previously. In any case, I approached this blond and asked, "are you going to the coach station?" Her response was a bit confused and she wasn't on the right side of the road for it, but I worked out that the answer was, "yes." Unfortunately for her, she was planning to head in the wrong direction. Fortunately for her, I wasn't a mugger, rapist, con man, or murderer.
Victoria Coach station is a little confusing, as it's spread over three buildings. She was heading toward the building where mostly local buses depart from. She needed to head to the departures building, for the long-distance services. I happened to be headed to the same place. I pointed out where she needed to go, then asked, "would you like me to help you carry your bags?" Enthusiastically, she said yes. I took one of her biggest bags, with built in wheels, and another, smaller bag. I hung the smaller bag from the extended handle of the bigger one. I still had my own shoulder bag, plus a shopping bag full of newspapers and food. We set off to the departures building.
Her bag on wheels was heavier than I thought and I was struggling with all I had to contend with. She spoke with an American accent, so I asked where she was from. Alaska was the answer. "You're only the second person I have ever met from Alaska," I said. No wonder this chick was so trusting. She was from the wilderness. I learned that she was a student, spending a semester in Europe. Having come to Britain from Germany, she'd spent a week in London and was now on her way north, to some university I'd never heard of. As I struggled with her heavy bags, I asked, "you haven't got books in here, have you?" After all, she was a self-confessed student. She denied that the contents contained literary matter, so I asked, "why have you got so much stuff?" Innocently, she informed me that she'd been buying all sorts of things as she travelled across Europe. "Do yourself a favor," I suggested, "and send some of this stuff home, by courier, or something." I couldn't imagine her managing on her own, with this load.
"I thought of doing that," she said, "but when I asked my parents, they said to just keep it with me."
Her parents probably didn't want to be bothered with all of her junk. "You haven't figured it out, yet, huh? Don't ask your parents, just send it." She seemed a bit clueless. Then I found out that she was only seventeen. No wonder she didn't know what to do. I told her she was pretty brave, traveling around Europe and doing a semester abroad, at seventeen, all on her own. She was earlier for her bus than I was for mine, so we chatted for a while, in the departures lounge. She explained that she'd finished high school early, which explained why she was doing a university semester abroad, at such a young age. Obviously, she was brainy, if not worldly. Something paternalistic in me had taken over. She was a year younger than my evil ex-stepdaughter, the Black Princess, was now, and even more blond. I gave her tips on Britain and advice, plus invited her to tune in to my radio show. Eventually, other girls near to her age, fellow students, started turning up. I noticed her looking at them and realised that she wanted to get to know some of them. I said farewell and shuffled off to my gate. I felt satisfied that I had helped a very deserving person. What's wrong with me? Am I getting soft as I get older, or what?

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