Week 40

I was supposed to be picked up half an hour ago. Instead, I’m standing in the scorching heat, in an unfamiliar town in a country that before now I’d only seen on TV and in the movies.
He hasn’t forgotten me. Instead, he’ll be lost.
This is why we arranged a meeting spot before I left. But that meeting spot is at least a half hour drive from where I currently am, and I currently don’t know where I am.
Looking up and down the street again, I resign to the fact that he’s not coming. I’m on my own.
I decide to walk to the nearest police station in the hope that they’ll take pity on me and drive me to where I need to be. First mission: find a police station.
I walk north, not because I feel comfortable that this is the right direction, but because I can see there is a McDonalds on the way. I figure it’s as good a place as any to get directions. However, I soon discover that this McD’s is not like the ones at home.
“Excuse me, can you please tell me where the nearest police station is?”
“Lo siento…”
Not something I had anticipated. All Spanish speaking employees in an American McDonalds. I knew I should have paid more attention in Spanish class at school, but for now words escape me.
After a few attempts and less than successful hand gestures, I shrug and thank them, but decide to just continue in the direction I’d been travelling and hope for some luck. Surely I’m due for some good fortune?
And it appears to come. After walking less than five minutes I hear a car tooting as it pulls up beside me. Throwing my arms up in relief and with a big smile on my face I figure he’s finally found me! Finally, my ride is here!
Yet, when I approach the passenger side of the car, I notice the driver is a different shade to the man I’m waiting on, and a far greater height. This is a stranger.
I shake my head, and say I’m fine and not to worry, but he doesn’t buy it. So I reveal to him that I’m looking for the police station and he offers to drive me, saying it’s too far to walk.
I don’t argue, and while my instincts tell me I’m doing the right thing by getting in the car, there’s a flicker of “you idiot” that crosses my mind along with the picture of my corpse on the side of a deserted road.
The driver is friendly enough and apparently he saw me in McDonalds and decided to do a random act of kindness. I explain about my ride not showing up and how he gets lost easily, and my hopes of the police taking me to our meeting spot.
He laughs and tells me that the spot is on his way to work. He offers to drive me to where I need to be and explains that the police wouldn’t help me anyway as it’s out of their jurisdiction.
Alarm bells should probably be ringing by now, but he seems like a good guy, and I trust the part of myself that is both relaxed and relieved to have someone to talk to.
So we drive. We talk politics, hairdressing, and my home country. And after thirty minutes, I’m let out at my location with a handshake and a wave, before I’m left alone again.
And then there HE is, my ride who never came to get me, looking sheepish and apologetic, but also utterly perplexed at my being dropped off by a stranger.
And as we drive away and talk about my wait and the man who picked me up, we realise the risk and luck of life. We decide not to separate again, but to add a few random acts of kindness to our list of things to do while in America.

Week 35

Fourteen steps up, ten steps across, fourteen steps down. The daily commute began and ended with this crossing over the train tracks.
The wait was always different though. Sometimes Megan would have to run across the bridge and hope she didn’t slip and fall before stumbling onto the platform and leaping onto the first carriage. Other times it was a slow and cold wait at the station before the train eventually rolled in.
This morning was going to be the latter, clearly, as there were just a few people waiting when she arrived, meaning she must have just missed a train minutes earlier.
More businessmen and women gathered in the station shortly after Megan took a seat in the glass shelter, along with a few sleepy-eyed students. She was vaguely aware of them but kept her eyes on her cellphone, her headphones in her ears, trying to avoid making eye contact with anyone else. She played no music while she waited, instead the headphones were to dissuade anyone wanting to chat idly about the weather or how busy her day was likely to be.
She shivered as the icy wind whipped around the station which was fast becoming busy with bodies, and empty of transport. Megan was beginning to feel uneasy about the length of the wait, and as she looked up from her phone, she noticed the others waiting were beginning to look concerned and confused about the delay, too.
That quickly turned to panic and clear distress though, as finally coming from the south towards the station was her train. Engulfed in flames. And not slowing down…