Today’s Writing 101 assignment is to write a character study about the most interesting person I’ve met this year. While I may or may not get the character study part right … well, we’ll see.
Yeesh. In order to write about the most interesting person I’ve met this year, I’d have to have met some people. In all honesty, I’ve come across a lot of people this year – whether it was during my trip to the UK, or one of the two photo gigs I’ve traveled to, but I “meet” people for such a short period of time. And, I usually don’t meet people.
I try to hide in the background as much as possible. That’s why the photography jobs are so great. If my subjects don’t notice me, but my client ends up with some great photos, I’ve done my job. (I don’t do weddings or sittings. I photograph live events – usually something of the corporate theatre bent.)
There is a gentleman I remember from the Victoria Tube station in London. I’d flown in to Gatwick on a ten hour flight. I’d ridden the Gatwick express in to London-Victoria, lugged my luggage to the tube station and… couldn’t decide which platform to use to ride two stops to the Gloucester Road station on the Circle line. I probably looked a mess, it’s possible I smelled … not great, and from the second I opened my mouth it was obvious I was American. But, since I didn’t want yet another adventure in what had been a really long day, I looked around until my eyes settled on an older gentleman in a long, black wool coat. He looked nice enough, with his close cropped white hair and somewhat twinkly eyes. He held a paper in his hands, rolled up and was idly tapping it against his free hand – waiting for the train to come in.
I stepped up to him and in my most polite voice asked “Excuse me, am I on the correct platform to get to Gloucester Road station?” – later a friend told me that the fact I pronounced “Gloucester” correctly probably went a long way in my favor – but the gentleman looked down at me (I’m on the low end of average in height) and seemed a little surprised at first but then he smiled kindly and said in his perfect British accent, “Well, let’s look at the map and see.”
The map on the wall had been right behind me, and I’d looked at it, but since the Circle line goes in – as its name suggests – a circle, I had no idea if I wanted to go Eastbound or Westbound or turn round and round. Add in the jet lag, the fact I generally cannot sleep on planes, and I barely knew which way was left and right. He pointed to the map with his paper, “I’m going to Paddington and it looks like Gloucester is in the same direction. Get on the same train I do.”
I was so grateful to find a nice person, I probably gushed my thanks, which – who knows what that did for British-American relations – but he smiled the same kind smile and stepped up to the edge of the platform as the train was arriving. He stood across the carriage from me, looking at the adverts on the upper walls of the train, his rolled up paper still idly tapping his leg. When the train stopped, two stops later, at Gloucester Road station I whispered my thanks at him again, (I’m shy, too) received a nod and the kind smile, and stepped off the train, wrestling my luggage with me.
I never got his name, it’s not like we had an epic conversation, but as my first contact with someone who had no obligation to be nice to me – he really made a very big impression.