Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Getting Nowhere

"I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed."

-Jonathan Swift

Some years ago my mother and I were in Heathrow Airport in London waiting for a flight to Ireland.
I went to fetch us some water and upon my return found Mater listening intently to a little old Irishman.
"...been living in London for twenty years..."
I left them to it and quietly watched the planes from the viewing area. Nearby I heard the sprightly man regaling my mother with all sorts of tales. I could not discern the measure of her expression but considered that he must be at least a bit interesting.
As I listened I caught some pieces of the conversation that this Irish fellow was revealing:
"...too many immigrants in London..."
"...hordes of them...thieves...Eastern European..."
I brushed aside the distant words "last call for flight number..." in order to ascertain that I was hearing him properly.
I was flabbergasted and, to judge by the look upon my poor mother's face she too was slowly curling up inside and waiting for an inner flight to take her far away.
"Absolutely last call for flight number..."
It was dreadful. Clearly an immigrant himself, he was full of bitterness and ruminating in a most horrible way on the very subject he ought to have been more sensitive and knowledgeable about. He did not have a good word to say about anything, and for some reason he expected my mother, a stranger to him, to be delighted by his talk.
It carried on for what seemed a very long time, he not noticing for a moment that my mother had mentally vacated the area and turned off all the lights, in a manner of speaking.
At last he stopped, presumably having exhausted his repertoire of name-calling. He sat back and folded his arms. He sighed, exhausted from the rambling.
My mother said not a word. She really could think of nothing to say in response.
The next thing that happened was rather startling. The man leaped up from his chair, the expression on his face one of confusion and disorientation. He moved as quickly as he could to the nearby desk.
"My flight," he said breathlessly. He gave his name.
"I am sorry," said the flight attendant rigidly. "We were calling you. I am afraid that you have missed it. We did call you many times."
"No, no!" he cried.
"There will be another flight... let's see... tomorrow morning."
"I was right here!" he snapped furiously.
The lady looked straight into his eyes.
"The flight has departed, Sir. There is nothing that we can do except try to put you on tomorrow's flight. We can try."
Tears came to his eyes then and his expression changed drastically.
At that point Mater and I had to catch our flight and we went home, quietened by our own thoughts. I like to think, in the better moments, that he learned a little something that day.


hele said...

You already blew my mind with the quote.

I'm gave myself the rest of the evening to mull over the rest.

Beth said...

I think hele summed it up. Wow.

julochka said...

it really seems to be true that we make our own world, doesn't it? he went through life being dissatisfied and looking for reasons to be mad at the world..then he missed his flight and gave himself yet another reason, confirming that the world was an unfair place that was out to get him. it seems to me that he got what he deserved. but, as your quote suggests, i doubt he knew it...

Barb said...

What a terrific tale. I have recently finished reading "A New Earth" by Eckhardt Tolley. He teaches to live in the present ... something that gentlemen needs to learn. We only harm ourselves by constantly laying blame, holding onto grievances and using the past to shape our lives. Again, what a very good entry that reminded me to live in the NOW. Thank you!!!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Hele, glad you liked the quote- of course, Jonathan Swift was an immigrant too.

Beth, Hele always says it just right :)

Julie, I doubt it too but I can only hope he became aware soon after that. What a waste of a life, otherwise.

Barb, I've heard an awful lot about 'A New Earth.' It sounds like a wise book. Thanks for your really kind comment.

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