16 december 2010

The kindness of strangers - December in the USA

Ever lost something in the back of a cab?

Well, exactly that happened to Lynn and I when we were in New York this week. After a cab ride from Chelsea to the Meatpacking District, Lynn discovered that she had lost her Iphone in the back of the taxi. After hours of ringing the cab company, the police, the dispatch centre with no result, we had almost given up and Lynn was almost in tears. Gone were her text messages, her contact numbers and her photos.

We decided to give her phone number one last chance. I tiredly dialed the number on my phone and, amazingly, a man answered. He had found the phone in the back of the taxi and taken it home in the hope that we would ring him. A long taxi drive later up to the Upper East Side and we had retrieved the phone -unscathed and unused.

What are the chances of that? Losing an Iphone in New York and getting it returned? I guess there are more good people in the world than there are bad.

A few days earlier, we had been waiting in a bus station in Wilmington, Delaware. We had been running an Advanced Negotiation skills workshop there and were heading back to New York. Delaware has no sales tax, so we'd done a lot of tax-free shopping and had a mountain of luggage with us. The bus station was on N.Shipley street (my name!) and was basically a run-down, unheated room full of graffitti and toilet odour.

Slowly the room filled up with an interesting blend of people. Young men drinking beer, a rasta carrying a matress, a chinese woman hugging her stomach, a loud woman screaming into her telephone. And there we sat, with our mountain of luggage and our out-of-place fashion choices. It didn't exactly feel threatening, but it did feel like a very alien environment - an socioanthropological adventure.

The bus arrived, on the other side of N.Shipley street and we had to cross the road to get to where it had stopped. We were wondering how many trips backwards and forwards it would take us to get all of our bags to the bus. As we stood up, everyone in the room approached us and, to our amazement, asked if we needed help to carry our heavy bags. We accepted and a trail of people carried, dragged and wheeled our luggage over to the bus.

Just like the man in New York, these people acted out of kindness and sympathy. They didn't know us. They could have easily just left us to solve our own problem. But they didn't. They lent a helping hand. I guess it is true what they say about the kindness of strangers....