It’s another rainy afternoon in Port of Spain with the typical goose-stepping over streams on the pavements, and mighty leaps (which inevitably fail) over rushing water in shallow drains.
A mother and her close-to-three-year-old daughter enter the backseat of a taxi I was eventually forced to take. The little girl was dressed in a pink-and-white-checkered pinafore dress with large bows in her hair. She bravely clambered in before her mom, and lisped, “ ‘fternoon, auntie”.
Almost lost between the two adults, she looked up unblinkingly into my face in that direct way little ones have, then popped her thumb into her mouth. Her mom stared out into the rain. As expected, her daughter’s eyelids began to droop and soon she cuddled against my arm fast asleep.
Her mom glanced around. “Oh gawd, sorry!” she laughed, and leaned across to shift her. “Nah, it’s okay. Leave her. She’s sleeping.” As we approached the taxi stand the mother awakened her, and the child went from sleeping to extremely awake in a matter of moments. As she hopped out the taxi, she turned and said, “Auntie, I gorn!”
I chuckled to myself thinking how simple and sweet interactions could be if only we met people, well, as people, unfiltered by prejudices or our own baggage.
It was a pleasant surprise to discover, when I began the life of a commuter, how polite most people were when entering a public transport vehicle. Almost everyone who entered said, “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” and I have seen small acts of kindness done: heavy bags held for the elderly, doors opened and closed for people entering and exiting, and drivers who wish you “a blessed day”.
An elderly man fell heavily onto the pavement as he came off a maxi, and curled on his side, unable to find the momentum to get up. Two men immediately rushed to his assistance, one about his age, in his late sixties he looked like, and a young man in his early twenties. They helped him up, and ensured that he was steady on his feet before they left. The maxi driver did not move until he was sure that the old man was fine.
Then there is the random eye contact made with strangers while walking. These particularly intrigue me because it’s not the casual glance that does not really see you, but a more-than-three-second look as you and the other person are heading in opposite directions in a throng. A polite greeting may result in a smile as you pass each other by. At the very minimum you will get a response.
It makes me think that even in this cynical, and sometimes cruel world there remains a yearning for human warmth and contact. There’s a homeless man who calls me “my love” whenever I greet him. The first time I heard it, and possibly the second…and the third…. I admit, I cringed. But given that it has never moved beyond that, I trust that it is a simple response acknowledging that I don’t pass him by.
Remember that ad, I think in the 80s, with a lovely woman emerging from an insurance building, saying with a radiant smile, “ …because at [name of insurance company] people are people, yuh know what I mean…” A concept to live by: people are people. And they aren’t all bad.
By Simone Delochan