No good deed goes unpunished.
I miss discussing politics, art and woman's rights with grumpy taxi drivers in Iraq. I miss their ridiculous, and sometimes scary outbursts at the traffic and the mother of all the traffic.
Instead here taxi drives consist of silence....some static. And yet more silence. Thats not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes you get used to the endless talk, mutterings and flailing hand movements - none of which can be found over here.
I got off at the train station, thanking the taxi driver inappropriately...honestly i have trouble riding taxis alone...the stories of kidnappings, ransoms and everything else really messed my head up back in Baghdad, and now its ingrained.
I passed what looked like a 50+ year old beggar. Though he wasn't begging, but rather standing and sitting whilst shouting random observations to passers by, ranging from 'You dropped something!' to 'I can't look in any other direction', in a thick scottish accent.
I walked by too engrossed in finding what train, platform and time I should take.
After asking 3 people, and spending a long time reading the ridiculously complicated grids, I found my train. I sat down and yawned.
Little did I know the Scottish man had sat behind me. Ten minutes into the train ride, he asked me to send a urgent text for him. His eyes were such a light blue colour, they seemed like a cataract sufferer. They seemed dead.
I agreed, and he pitifully repeated 'Shokran shokran'. I was caught surprised. I had been talking to my mother on the phone, but it still seemed strange to me that he successfully recognised Arabic. Then again, perhaps its my fault for assuming that those around me are ignorant.
As he detailed his life to me, I nodded and smiled sympathetically.I wanted him to stop talking. His constant sitting and standing unnerved me.
Thankfully he finished babbling, and i turned back trying to resume my thought train. But he interrupted again. Looking at the open day university pack I had been given, he repeated 'you have to make sure you know that they want you more than you want them...'
A lady perhaps in her 40's tried to come to my rescue, as she glanced at my bewildered face.
Despite her angry looks at the guy, and her warning comments, he continued his tirade about death.
I actually looked at the rest of the carriage, trying to discreetly look for other seats. There were none.
His bulbous eyes made me feel pity, and a large part of me realised I was going to probably avoid using trains or tubes from now on.
Unashamedly, I pretended I was sleeping when he fell silent for a few minutes. Being quite tall, he would lean over my chair and ask personal questions, which i had no desire to answer. So I stayed silent.Though the overbearing scent of alcohol also aided my inability to open my mouth.
After what seemed like an eternity, my stop came. I pretty much ran to the exit, leaving him to be verbally attacked by some annoyed London girls. He then decided to try to converse with suited men conversing about IT. I must admit, I was impressed by the way they responded to him as he spat out his tale of how he had gone to Oxford to study IT, but had got kicked out....
As i walked around the maze that is the train station, I felt dizzy.
Later on that day, my phone rang. I answered it, to be confronted with the sound of the drunken train man. I closed the phone down almost scared.In fact out of shock, i had almost thrown my phone.
I felt betrayed by my own morals.
I was asked for help, and I had undertaken what i saw was a 'random act of kindness'. Only when I was confronted by the same voice babbling down the phone, did I realise I had been tricked into sending a text to the phone of a 50 year old drunk - it wasn't sent to the phone of a 'friend' who was worried. And he probably hadn't 'forgotten' his phone in Glasgow as he claimed. The weird thing was I waited for my anger. I waited for my usual reaction of mentally scolding myself for being naive. The anger never came.
Instead for the first time in my life, I felt vulnerable.
Next time, I'm taking the 'Me no sbeak English' reply to every stranger. :D
The past few days in the capital city have made me inevitably homesick for my Capital. But I'm almost worried now..when i go back, will my rose-coloured glasses fall completely off, and will I finally face up to the harsher reality? Or will I continue to think of it as a place of beauty?