|This little light of mine|
Around eight to ten years ago, The Company sent me to Holland. There were three main reasons for this - the first was that the customer was Dutch, which meant that going to Mexico or Disney World would probably have been a waste of time, the second was that the customer was having issues with an application I had pretty much written entirely by myself (so I was the best person to deal with it) and third was that the youngest daughter of the person who usually went to see this customer was going in to hospital for a few days (pre-scheduled obviously) and he wanted to stay with her (which is fair enough).
(On a slight tangent - the youngest daughter was born the day after I joined The Company. About four months ago I ran in to the guy and his youngest daughter and she was all grown up, which - given that it was thirteen years ago - shouldn't be much of a surprise, but seriously - it kind of freaked me out!)
The guy briefed me about the trip, and told me that getting from the station to the hotel was really, really easy.
"Walk out of the train station, turn right, go to the taxi rank and tell the guy in the taxi the name of the hotel"
Couldn't be more simple, right? Even though I don't speak Dutch, it seemed fairly simple.
I arrived at the train station, walked out, turned right, went to the taxi rank and found there were NO taxies there. Not a one.
And since this is related to the theme of the week, you'd probably think that that was where I was stranded. But no - it actually gets a little more dramatic and interesting.
I walked up to the bus stop, and got on the next bus that arrived. (And now that I am looking back on this a decade later, I am realising just how dumb all this sounds, and how lucky I am it all turned out more or less well). I managed to communicate to the driver which hotel I wanted to go to, and about six stops later, he indicated I should get off.
So I did. And, once again, I found myself in the middle of nowhere, with no idea which way the hotel actually was.
And no, I am still not at the end of the story.
I set off walking in what I thought was the right direction (turns out it was completely the wrong direction), and about ten minutes later I found myself in the middle of a town. By this itme, it was dark, and the street lights were on.
I figured that I would either find the hotel, or find a pub (or something else) that was open and would have someone who could direct me to the hotel.
As it happened, I found what I think was a youth club, There were two guys there - both of whom looked a little surprised to see me walk in carrying a bag, a backpack and a suitcase. I explained who I was and where I was trying to go, and they gave me suitable directions.
So I set off walking again, and then - five minutes later - one of the guys cycled up to me and got off his bike. He explained that he was a little worried I wouldn't get where I was going, and that I might have not understood the directions, so he came to walk me to the hotel.
In my whole life I have never seen the phrase "the kindness of strangers" illustrated as well as I did that night.
Ten minutes later, we arrived at the front door of the hotel, and he bade me good night and good luck, and then vanished in to the night again. (Which, I know, makes it sound like he wasn't real and possibly a helpful ghost, but he really was real and not a figment of my imagination).
Needless to say, the rest of my trip went a great deal more smoothly, because the hotel was always able to summon me a taxi, and the company at which the customer worked could also summon me a taxi as well.
And, as the trip ended, I got back to the station, back on the train, back to the airport (then had to wait an extra two hours because the plane was late) and then - finally - back to the UK, where I discovered that the taxi drive who had come to meet my plane had also been waiting two extra hours and had missed his daughter's recital. Which I felt bad about, but not all that bad because it entirely wasn't my fault and I had had a pretty crappy trap already.
But here's the thing - even though I was stranded in the middle of a foreign town, in a country in which I couldn't speak the language, I never really felt the urge to panic. I figured that there would be someone who could help me, whether they were in a pub, another hotel (that wasn't the one I was looking for) or - as it turned out - a youth club.
I think it's because I have faith - faith that the world is essentially a good place and things will turn out right if you approach them with good and right in your heart.
(Before anyone takes this as an incidation that I have faith in a divine higher power - don't, because I don't).
And, as it turns out, I was right. The bus driver was as helpful as he could be, and I found two nice guys who were willing to help a stranger out of the goodness of their hearts, and despite the fact I was all alone in the night, I got to where I was going.
(And yes, that is the end of the story).