Evening on the ground

12 05 2007

Here is a secret.

People tell me things. I’m not sure I should list this as a skill, or as timing, or a coincidence. But people, more often than not, tell me things. I shoulda been a … something else with more sense. Instead I’m a government schlub faced with people opening up to me left right and centre.

Generally I invite it, I suspect. I am so fascinated by people, how they work, what they think, the ways their lives proceed, that we amble down the path of revelation together. Somehow I manage to stay on the side of polite interest rather than intrusive stalker. Tonight, the taxi driver, apropos of nothing much, broke down and cried as we got near my house and we had a discussion (meter stopped) about love and its fleeting nature and how we both deserved it and so on and so forth, parked in front of my house, me comforting a sixty year old cabbie whose partner left him for a bus driver (“she traded down, a bus driver, and he lives in a caravan at his mother’s place, for god’s sake, she left me for a bus driver, I loved her and she left me for him”) and he thinks that is his last chance. He saw her last week, because she still lives in the same neighbourhood as him, and he wanted to make pea and ham soup like they used to make, and he was in the supermarket looking at the peas and not sure which ones were the right ones and he looked up and there she was and he asked her which peas to get and she couldn’t remember either. Did I cry too? Not until after he’d (waited until I was in my front door and) driven off into the impersonal night. I cried over a random cabbie who took on my $10 fare from the Valley and I barely know his name (Graham) or care (his son-in-law worries that he is too nice and I agree).

A couple of weeks ago I gave a different cabbie career advice because he’d been studying for years but didn’t know what he wanted to do, and at 45 he felt that he was stuck in his life and had no options. So we discussed options and with my fare I gave him some websites to look at for job opportunities in the community sector. Before that, a lady on the bus told me her partner beat her so she left him but now she wants to go back to him. So we talked about what else she could do and where she could go and how love confuses things, as important as it is. This is an ongoing theme in my life. Something about me makes people tell me their secrets and their hurts and desires. I never know what to say back to them.

Most of all what I want to say is I AM NOT QUALIFIED FOR THIS. I am not special. I don’t know what to say. I know two-fifths of five-eighths of fuck-all. I am a child. I have headphones on in public because people scare me. I know what the sky looks like before a storm. I know what a plant needs to grow. That is all. What I know of people and their relationships fits into the palm of my hand. I had love, and it withered and died, I want to (did) say. I don’t know why she left you for the bus driver. I don’t know why he hit you. I don’t know why you feel lost. Why are you asking me when I can’t help you? All I can do is listen and helplessly pat your hand.

That is all.

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5 responses

13 05 2007
MadameBoffin

This would be fairly alarming to experience, I imagine, mostly because you’re compassionate so you’re put in this position of caring for these people but, at the same time, not knowing even their name and them pouring out their heart to you.You do have a nice, calm quality about you – I can see why people might find themselves telling you stuff.

13 05 2007
Miff

Yes, but the important thing is, when people you know tell you things it means you can pass on lots of lovely gossip to me!You seem to have had a bad run with taxi drivers of late though.

14 05 2007
mangoman

All good stuff for the book kiddo. I assume that you are going to do that before you run for parliament?Hope the taxi driver felt better after it. How much better is it to be able to lay it all out in front of a total stranger and thus start to draw a line under the experience than to do something harmful? Be glad that you helped.

14 05 2007
mskp

i heart your dad.

14 05 2007
sherd

Me too. Note the tried and true technique of letting your children know the career options you support by simply assuming they will do those things.

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