The Kindness of Strangers

What’s happened to all the spare time I thought I’d have after completing Book 3? It’s a question I ponder as I leave Tom and my comfort zone and head off alone to fulfil one of my new roles serving on the committee of the Romantic Novelists' Association. I know it’s lame, but I’m pretty hopeless at finding my way round London and always dread it. Today though, I’m armed with maps and directions carefully printed for me by Tom and instructions from Rose to ignore the hurry everyone else is in and to take my time. What can go wrong?


The plan goes slightly awry at Epsom where I’ve spent the night at Ma’s. At the station I congratulate myself on picking a quiet time to travel, but, seconds before the 8.17 to Waterloo train arrives, the platform is flooded with commuters and I’m outgunned and outmanoeuvred in the rush for a seat. Well never mind, there’s enough room for me and my bag to stand out the way and I can quietly read my Kindle. Except, of course, that with every passing station more folks squeeze on to the train and soon it’s crowded and very, very hot.


Just after Vauxhall, I start to feel very uncomfortable. I try to pretend I’m okay, but now I feel really awful… stars dance in front of my eyes before everything turns black, voices fade into the distance, and I sense there’s a strong chance I’m going to be sick over everyone. What to do? For all that I keep trying to convince myself I can overcome this, I start feeling even worse so I hit the deck before it hits me, crouching down on the floor as the train rumbles along, hoping I’ll be fine. No one seems to have noticed, anyway.


I dimly hear an announcement that we’re approaching Waterloo and try to stand, but my legs are wobbly and I’m totally disorientated. And then… and then a lovely young woman taps my shoulder and asks if I’m all right, smiling at me with touching concern. She ignores my pretence that I’ll be fine in a minute, she turfs a young man out of his seat and helps me into it. She finds water in my bag and makes me drink it then hovers over me, looking after me. At Waterloo I thank her and tell her to go on her way even though there’s still concern in her eyes.


I let everyone leave and sit still, trying to brace myself for the next part of the journey. Then I hear a male voice. ‘You’re obviously in need of assistance,’ he says gently, ‘can I help?’. This kind man carries my bag for me and offering me his arm, helps me off the train and to a seat on the platform. He’s very proper, very concerned and even offers to accompany me to see that I get to my destination safely. Having reassured him that I’ll wait where I am until I feel better, I let him get on his way. As I sit there, sipping water and getting my breath back, I reflect that in a world which often seems so cold and cruel, two complete strangers took time out of their busy Monday morning commute to look after me.



I’ll probably never know who stopped to take care of me yesterday, but whoever you are, I’m truly grateful for your kindness and compassion. Thank you so much for looking after me.


The painting is 'St Giles in the Adverts' by Tom Tomos

Comments

Maggie Christie said…
Wow Chris I hope you're okay now, but that was so lovely to hear of your helpful strangers. It's such a relief to know there are still good Samaritans out there. Heart-warming.
mountainear said…
Glad you're OK - fainting's always rather unsettling. Bless those two strangers - reassuring to know there are good folk about . How sad that we doubt it. X
Chris Stovell said…
Thanks, Mags - I won't forget their faces, I'm so grateful for their help and yes, it made me appreciate how good people can be!
Chris Stovell said…
Mountainear, it was so disconcerting! I was convinced I could beat it, but I couldn't. And no, I didn't expect anyone to help me so their great kindness was a very welcome reminder of the best of human nature.
Deborah Carr said…
How frightening for you Chris, but lovely that those two thoughtful strangers were there to make sure you were okay.

Love the painting!
Jan Brigden said…
Oh, Chris, how scary for you. Thank goodness there are still people out there who genuinely want to help. I'm just glad that you're ok. Love & Hugs xx
Chris Stovell said…
It wasn't what I needed, Debs - especially before an RNA meeting, so I was very grateful to my rescuers!

I know, Jan - I felt thankful not just for myself but for that reminder of how lovely people can be. xx
Philip C James said…
Glad you're in good shape after that experience. Scratch the surface of London's commuters and their humanity shines through.
Frances said…
Jeepers, Chris! What a scary early a.m. journey for you. I know that I am fortunate that my subway train travels rarely occur at our NYC rush hour. It really is a crush of humanity in a not very pleasant physical environment.

Grand that folks came to to your assistance. I've witnessed/participated in many such situations over the years. It's encouraging that city folks can be caring.

Hoping that your meeting went well nonetheless, and that some day one of your novels might feature some variation on that experience. What a way to meet someone, eh?

Please let Tom know how much I like his painting.

xo
Chris Stovell said…
Hi Philip, good to see you here and thank you so much for your comment. Yes, I did at least walk away from the experience feeling more optimistic about the way people treat each other.

Hi Frances, I can imagine that you must have witnessed a few similar scenes in your busy commute at some point. I wonder if I put that scene in a book if I'd get comment about it not being very realistic? :) Good to hear from you. Cx
Kitty said…
Kind strangers indeed. I'd like to think there are many of us who would help. You must have been frightened, totally disorientated. Restores faith in humanity, though! X
Chris Stovell said…
Thank you dear Kitty - I was and so worried I was about to be sick over everyone. The horror! After so much dreadful news in the press it was lovely to be on the receiving end of care and compassion.
Liane Spicer said…
Hope you're fine now, Chris. I too am always astounded by the kindness of strangers.

Your mention of Vauxhall brought back almost-forgotten memories of my dad's first car, circa 1972. It was a Vauxhall 101. That car was a beast! He called it 'Vauxhill' because not even the steepest slope could faze it. :D
Chanpreet said…
Just when we think the world can't be a worse place, people always manage to step up and find a way to prove that it's not true and there is hope for us yet.

I'm so glad there were people to help you. Crowded and hot areas can be a pain. I'm also glad you weren't overcome.
The worst of times, and yet the best of times, Chris. So glad all was well for you in the end.
Guernsey Girl said…
I remember several years ago Prince Charles calling for a newspaper to print only good news on the front page. They did (just for him) and everyone said it was boring. Today, I think we should all share our good news as there's so little of it...Glad all's well now.
Claire McC said…
Sounds very scary, Chris. Glad you seem okay now. I love hearing stories which renew the faith in mankind. It's easy to focus on the negative stories because that's usually all we hear on the news. Bless those lovely people. x
Chris Stovell said…
Thank you, Liane - your story about your dad's beast of car mad me laugh (and reminded me of my dad's Capri and its skittish steering!)

So many of the headlines recently, Chanpreet, have made me sad or cross. I cannot express how grateful I am to the two people who showed me such a kindness, not just for looking after me for cheering me up!
Chris Stovell said…
Horrid when I started feeling ill, Linda - it could have been so much worse but for those two people.

Lane Mathias said…
oh, Chris - that's a scary thing to happen. So lovely that those people took care of you. Bless them.

All the women in my family faint if they have to stand too long or get hot. My mother hit the deck in H&M and my daughter in Poundland. We pick the classy places :)
Chris Stovell said…
Aw, Claire -thank you, I'm happy to have a good news story to share for once... makes a change from mice!

Lane, we're pretty good at it too - Youngest has done A Log (yes)assembly and a bus, Eldest fainted after giving blood - the ambulance turned up and asked where the baby was as the message was that she'd given birth!
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Margaret James said…
That's such a heart-warming story, Chris. I hope you're feeling much better now? XXX
Pondside said…
I'm so glad you were alright, in the end. Thank you for a story that underlines what I believe - that people are essentially good, and willing to help. I'm so glad that two of those good ones helped you!
Chris Stovell said…
Thank you Margaret - hopefully I'm fine now!

Thanks Pondside, it's immensely reassuring to know that people came to my rescue when I needed them,
Fennie said…
Glad you're OK. Must have been a frightening experience though. Still, grist for the writing mill. Best of luck to you and to the lovely people who helped you.
Flowerpot said…
That must have been horrible Chris - so glad you had those two strangers to help you. Will they make their way into a book?!
Chris Stovell said…
If I actually put that in a book, Fennie and Flowerpot, I expect a few people would tell me it was clichéd nonsense and wouldn't happen in real life! Thanks both for your good wishes.

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