A Different Kind Of Humanitarian Tour

, , , , , | Hopeless | March 18, 2018

(I’m a woman in my early 20s, and I decide to try traveling alone for the first time after finding a cheap flight to Massachusetts. I’ve always wanted to see Cape Cod, so my plan is to fly into Boston and then take a bus out to Provincetown. Right off the bat, the trip does not go well. Among other things, a woman on the plane tries to steal my clearly labelled backpack and has to be stopped by the flight attendant, and a man literally pushes me into the street to be the first one onto the bus. By the time I finally arrive in Provincetown, I’m exhausted and miserable and wondering if I made a mistake, but I came all this way, so I decide to at least get a drink before collapsing. While at the bar, I start chatting with a guy there with a bunch of his friends, and he mentions he works for a local whale-watching company.)

Guy: “If you’re only in town for a few days, you should definitely go. It’s probably the coolest thing to do in town.”

Me: “Yeah, it looked neat, but I’m not sure; the tickets were kind of pricey.”

Guy: “Oh, that’s no good! You can’t miss out on it just because of that! Go down to the pier tomorrow and tell them [Guy] sent you, and they’ll hook you up.”

(I thank him, and the conversation soon drifts in another direction. I’m not sure how serious the offer was, but I figure why not, so the next morning I head down to the pier and the ticket booth.)

Ticket Seller: “Hi, can I help you?”

Me: “Yeah, I’d like to get a ticket to the next whale-watching trip, please. [Guy] sent me down here; I was talking to him last night and he said it was absolutely not to be missed.”

Ticket Seller: “Oh, you’re a friend of [Guy]’s?”

Me: “Kind of? I met him in a bar last night.”

Ticket Seller: “Totally counts! He wouldn’t have sent you here if he didn’t like you. Which bar was it?”

(I tell him, and immediately get the impression that I’ve given him the best gossip of the month.)

Ticket Seller: “Oooh, [Guy] was at [Bar]? He hasn’t been back there since the breakup! Wait ‘til tell [Friend]!”

(He hands me a ticket and pulls out his cell phone.)

Me: “Wait, how much do I owe you?”

Ticket Seller: “On the house, m’dear. You’re a friend of [Guy]’s, and you just brought me the best gossip I’ve heard all day; that’s well worth a tour. Just make sure to tip the crew.”

(The tour was completely amazing, and I did indeed make sure to tip the crew well. It was like the conversation in the bar flipped a switch, and for the rest of the trip, everyone around me was so nice, I started to wonder if it was a town-wide prank or if I’d accidentally landed in a Disney movie or something. The locals cheerfully directed me to the best beaches and restaurants, usually with the offer of a ride from a friend who was heading that way. Complete strangers checked to make sure I was enjoying myself, pulled me out onto the dance floor, invited me to join their group heading to a club or karaoke, or insisted on walking me back to my hotel if I turned them down. If I stopped at a bakery or chocolate shop, half the time, there was an extra cookie or chocolate thrown in with whatever I’d ordered. And when I was disappointed that I’d waited too long to go for a walk along the point and night was falling, a quite lovely elderly couple lent me a flashlight and invited me to dinner when I came to return it. Anytime I asked, or expressed amazement at just how genuinely nice everyone was, the answer was always the same: “Well, it’s almost the end of tourist season, we might as well. And besides, we like people here!” Despite my initial misgivings, it was an amazing trip, made so by a bunch of seriously amazing people, and I can’t wait to go back!)

Vending Some Hope For Humanity

, , , , , , | Hopeless | March 16, 2018

The week before Christmas, my brother-in-law and his family stayed with us for a few days. They wanted to meet up with his grandmother while they were here, so we tried to think of a warm place to sit and visit with her. We decided on the lobby of one of the buildings on Temple Square, since it was near Grandma’s apartment. We also wanted to visit the Light the World vending machines in that lobby. These were five charitable vending machines that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had temporarily placed that allowed the user to choose specific donations to some organizations.

When we arrived at the lobby, we found that a local high school madrigal group was performing Christmas carols. We very much enjoyed visiting quietly on the ground floor while the choir sang in the mezzanine above. As we neared the time we had to leave for other appointments, my nieces and nephew were steered toward the vending machines to choose their gifts for the charity.

One niece chose 100 meals for the food bank. The other chose a pair of glasses for the eye-care group. As my four-year-old nephew was trying to choose his gift (he eventually chose to help the water charities), I realized the choir had stopped singing. I looked around to find that most of those teenagers had joined us at the vending machines, even having to stand in line to reach them. They had just finished their third of five concerts in various buildings on Temple Square that same day, and instead of resting or visiting the small cafe in that same lobby, they had come to spend their money on other people. No one forced them. No one was watching to make sure the money wasn’t used elsewhere. They chose to do it.

Makes you think there’s hope for the future, after all.

Everyone Is As Bright As A Button

, , , , , , | Hopeless | March 14, 2018

(I’ve had the same type of purse since high school: a canvas shoulder bag completely covered in about forty or fifty picture buttons. I switch them out every six months or so. I like them because they’re bright and colorful and they start conversations. At least once a week someone on the train will comment on a button featuring a book or a movie they recognize, and I’ve even had complete strangers give me buttons to add to my collection. Two encounters really stand out, though. The first is on a bus. Sitting across the aisle from me is a mom with two toddlers who will not settle down, no matter what she pulls out to distract them. One of them finally manages to squirm away, hops off the seat, and then stops dead when she sees my bag covered in shiny, colorful buttons.)

Toddler: “Your bag’s pretty! What’s that one?”

Me: “Oh, that one is a picture of the pyramids, because someday I want to go to Egypt.”

Toddler: “Cool! What’s that one?”

Me: “That one’s a picture of a story I like, about a girl who gets turned into an owl.”

(After a minute, her brother wanders over to join her looking at my bag, and they spend the next twenty minutes calmly asking me about each and every button on my bag. Almost as soon as they finish with the last button, their mom announces they are getting off at the next stop, and the two kids run back to their mom. As they are getting off, she mouths a fervent, “Thank you!” at me. I have to smile. The second encounter takes place at a train station at nearly 1:00 am, when I am heading back from a friend’s. I’m a very short woman, and I am the only one on the platform, so I am a little nervous when a man comes onto the platform and heads right to me, not least because he has facial tattoos tying him to a particularly brutal and violent local gang. I am trying to discreetly reach for my pepper spray when…)

Man: “Dude, your purse is awesome. I saw the buttons from clear across the station. Where are they from?”

Me: “Oh! They’re, uh, they’re from all over. Some I found, some I bought, and some I made.”

Man: “This one, is this from Amsterdam?”

Me: “No, Venice. I’ve never been, but one of my friends brought it back for me.”

Man: “Makes sense. I figured it had to be either Venice or Amsterdam, with the canals. Either way, it’s pretty cool. I love the idea of a city built on the water.”

(We chat a few more minutes, and then he asks…)

Man: “By the way, you looked kind of nervous when I walked up. Was it the tattoos?”

Me: “I, uh… Yeah. Yeah, it was.”

Man: “I figured it was. Joining that gang was the worst mistake I ever made. I managed to quit and I’ve been working at [Local Factory] for the last eight months. First, I’m saving up to get the tats lasered off, then I’m saving up to visit Europe. I want to see Delft and Amsterdam and Venice… and if I like it, then I’m saving up to move there!”

Me: “In that case, here. Until you can get there yourself!”

(He grinned, and pinned the Venice button to his jacket. Unfortunately, my train pulled up, so we didn’t get to talk anymore, but it was a conversation that stuck with me. I’m usually pretty shy, and I’ve had a couple of friends comment that it’s odd that I carry a purse that attracts so much attention, but I like seeing people smile when they recognize something on one of my buttons.)

Kindness Comes In All Shapes And Apartment Sizes

, , , , , , , , , | Hopeless | March 12, 2018

On the last weekend before school started in 2017, my step-dad at the time kicked us out of the house, completely out of the blue. Even though it was illegal, he gave us only 24 hours to get our stuff.

So many people through that event have helped restore my faith in humanity.

First, about half an hour after it happened, I was boxing stuff up while making various phone calls to friends and family. All said that they were currently busy but would drop whatever they were doing to come help. My best friend, who I’ve known since I was five, offered to take the three-hour drive from Washington to come and help.

The first couple nights, our grandparents offered to let us stay with them, and even though it was a small two-bedroom house we all fit snugly. We stayed with them for about a month into the school year until we got an apartment that accepted dogs.

When we were moving into the apartment, which was on the third floor, it was only five of us with the fifth being my 64-year-old grandpa. Right as we pulled up, we met one of our neighbors, and she said that she had a cart that we could use to get stuff to the stairs, which was super helpful, but then she offered to help us it get up the stairs as well! This kind lady has since interacted with us and is one of our nicest neighbors, but before she knew why we were moving or how much it could’ve meant to us, she went above and beyond the neighborly thing to do.

Thank you to everyone who helped us during a difficult time.

Oldest Trick In The Book

, , , , | Hopeless | March 10, 2018

(At my cinema, we have special screenings for seniors on Wednesday mornings. For less than half the price of a normal ticket, they can see a movie that was released earlier in the year, as well as get a cup of tea and a small snack. On this day, I am approached by a man who is well under forty, and his maybe seven-year-old daughter.)

Man: “Two tickets to [Marvel Movie], please! [Daughter] and I missed it when it was out first time, so we were excited to see it on the website.”

Me: “I’m sorry, but I’m really not supposed to give tickets to non-seniors. It’s a special viewing for our older customers.”

Man: *disappointed, but pleasant* “Oh. I should’ve looked. I was just really excited to see it in the cinema. Don’t worry, love; it’s not your fault.”

(I feel bad, because the man is looking crestfallen, and I consider making an exception and arguing with my manager later. Before I can say anything, however, the little girl looks from her dad to me and back again before clearly making a decision.)

Daughter: *clutching her back and doubling over* “Oh! My back!”

Man: “[Daughter]? What’s wrong?”

Daughter: “It’s my back, Daddy! I have a sore back because I’m so old!”

Me: *trying not to laugh* “Oh, is that right? How old are you?”

Daughter: “I’m at least seventy-seven and I need a ticket for the old people movie! And Daddy needs to come help me to my seat!”

Me: “Well, ma’am, I can certainly do a ticket for you and your companion if you’re the right age.”

Daughter: “I already told you I’m eighty-seven!”

Man: “You said seventy-seven, [Daughter].”

Daughter: “See? I’m so old I don’t know what age I am!”

(I let them in and replaced the tea with a fruit juice for her. My manager wasn’t thrilled with me when she found out, but the dad was thankful. Besides, that kind of quick thinking must be rewarded!)

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