Thursday, August 21, 2008


I boarded the morning train, eager to resume the sword fight that Captain Alatriste unwittingly found himself a part of when Ellie quickly passed me in the aisle going in the opposite direction, concern clearly etched across her face.
I paused momentarily before continuing to the seat at the front end of the car, trying to figure out what was wrong. A brief greeting to my seat partner and I was once again trolling the back streets of Madrid in 1624.
"I arrest you in the name of the king."
This did not augur well at all. Guadalmedina and Quevedo looked at each other, and I saw the count wrap his cloak around his body and over his shoulder, revealing his sword arm and his sword but taking care to cover his face.
"I can't believe that I did that."
I looked up from my book. "What did you do, Ellie?" I asked as she sat down in the double seat adjacent to mine.
"I left my wallet at home. Oh my god don't know what I'm going to do." When Ellie gets excited her accent gets a bit thicker; right now there was more Spanish to her tone than Bostonian. "I thought if I got off the train I could run back home but we're too far out. Does this train go back out to Needham or will it change?" She looked around with a panicked countenance.
"Ellie, don't worry about it. When we get to South Station we'll hit an ATM and I'll give you whatever you need for the day."
"Oh, no...I couldn't..."
"Of course you can. Its no problem."
"I wouldn't want to be a bother."
"You're no bother, Ellie. Just let me know how much you need for the day and I'll take care of it. It's not like I don't see you every day."
This is true. I do see Ellie daily - along with a few other people.
I started taking the early train so I could walk to the office. For a while I enjoyed the anonymity of this commute. I didn't want or need to make acquaintances on this run. I was enjoying the solitude. No one knew me. I could read in silence at my leisure. However, the Aubrey/Maturin series brought me to the attention of a fellow passenger - whose name I forget - who loves the series more than I do. This conversation led me to a dialogue with Eric, who one day asked me "You sure read a lot of books, don't you?" Frank, the conductor, has greeted me warmly every day for months now, and he is genuinely personable. He always has a quick story or a funny anecdote at the ready and for any occasion. Finally, Ellie - the Hispanic woman known for her smile, her headphones and her outfits. She is a mother who has the figure of a very young woman and for some inexplicable reason she likes the color pink. Therefore, usually, she is wearing pink somewhere on her person. Today it is a pink scoop neck blouse with black dress pants and a worried frown. However, she's smiling now.
"Thank you, Andy," she said as her cell phone rang.
"No problem," said I, returning to the captain. Ellie answered her phone as the sounds of steel against steel clattered in my ears.
"You're not going to believe it."
"Believe what?"
"My daughter has to come into the city this morning before she goes to Six Flags today so she's going to bring me my wallet."
"That's great, Ellie. What a stroke of luck."
"It sure is. Whew! What a relief."
"Good for you!"
She is quiet for a moment, then she asks. "You really would have loaned me money for today, wouldn't you?"
"Sure, why not?"
"Because not many people would do that."
"Oh, well..." I stammer, a bit flustered. "Of course they would."
"No, they wouldn't."
A pause, and then "You're a very nice man, Andy."
Apparently, I have my moments.


Blogger Fox In Detox said...

What a great post! I always knew you were a softy.

PS...You pay way too much attention to womens clothes. Should I worry, or should I fix you up with P.D.? (snark snark)

9:14 AM, August 21, 2008  
Blogger Andy said...

I notice her clothing because I am simply amazed at the number of pink pieces of clothing/jewelry that she has in her wardrobe. She never looks cheap - but she is consistant.

9:52 AM, August 21, 2008  
Blogger Murph said...

And this is one of the major (there are many more) differences between you and me. You switch trains and expect anonymity, yet you regularly chat with other passengers and the conductor, getting their names no less. Don't you know the meaning on anonymity because I don't think that word means what you think it does.

Now me, I have been riding the same trains in and out (for the most part) for over year and the only people I know on my train is a neighbor who I am friends with and a co-worker.

Your mistake was that you showed interest when she made her first comment. Me, I would still be reading my book. Being half-deaf has some advantages. And I suppose the headphones help, too. :-)

Now, you're stuck talking to these people who think they are your friend and your socialization almost cost you money. It wasn't just Ellie's stroke of luck that avoided that, it was yours, too.

'Nice man,' 'softy,' 'sucker.' It's a fine line. At least we didn't have to find out if you crossed it.

Sometimes the glass is more than half-empty, or should I say less than half-full.

11:05 AM, August 22, 2008  
Blogger Fox In Detox said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:53 PM, August 22, 2008  
Blogger Bridget said...

WOW...I'm glad there are still people like you in the world. I think if we all decide to ignore each other, this is going to become a very sad existence. I, too, would have leant the money to someone (an acquaintance, no less) that I see everyday. You would have seen that money again, Andy. I have no doubt. I feel sorry for you, Greg. Even if Andy had decided to GIVE Ellie $20 or even $40 and did not expect anything in return, he would have gained more that day from the feeling of helping a fellow human being. It is for this same reason that I frequently notice the petite, elderly patrons at the grocery store trying desperately to get the raspberry yogurt on the very top shelf and I stop to get them what they need. What will you do in 40 years when you can't reach the top shelf.

3:10 PM, August 24, 2008  
Blogger Cynthia said...

It really doesn't matter what people do with whatever help we give them. The point is to help others and to do it with no strings attached. If we are too attached to that which we think is 'ours', and consider it 'lost' and ourselves 'soft' when we help someone, then we are the sucker.

Wonderful post, Andy.

7:51 PM, August 25, 2008  
Blogger word said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:01 PM, September 03, 2008  
Blogger Oh Snap! said...

'half-deaf', 'very rude' sounds kind of similar, here.

5:04 PM, September 03, 2008  

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