Monday, August 23, 2004

Minding my own business

I was coming out of a German movie which was playing to a sold out audience at the Goethe Institute. I'm hurrying to catch the bus when I noticed a couple putting money in a parking meter. Tourists, I think, who don't know that past 6:30 PM parking in the street is free. So I tell them. Just like that. I just go up to them and tell them that they don't need to put any money in the meter. The two look at me puzzled and amazed. They are young and they just point to the small print on the meter which says "from 4:30 PM to 9:30 PM". They do need to put money in. I've messed up. But how to admit it? So I tell them, "Yes, of course but you can only put less than an hour's worth of coins. " Silent. Again this look, mixing question and amazement. I leave them quickly, thinking , like they do, that I should have mind my own business. As soon as I turn the corner of the street, I see two women pouring over a street map. I want to atone for my first mistake so I ask them if they need help. They don't really because they have the map but I confirm their conclusion: they need to walk north to reach their hotel. I've done nothing for them really and we all know that when we part but I feel already much better.

It's a quiet bus that comes finally. No one but two other guys. One is an old man wearing a torn T-shirt and too large pants for him. He comes up to me and asks for the section of the paper I just finished. I'm not sure if that's the section he likes or if it just because that was the one available. I gave it to him and ask if he is interested by the rest. "Sure", he says, "Anything".
I read with a new sense of urgency: I need to give him the rest of the paper before one of us gets out. I finish the metro section, the style and then hand him the sport's. A large smile on his face. "That's the one", he says, "I'm following the Olympics".
A phone rings in someone's pocket. A guy answers and we all hear him say "I'm in the bus and it's really noisy. Wait. I am just exiting the bus and I'm telling everyone that I am leaving the bus". I look up with a smile. The old man reading the sport section is also laughing. We both look at the guy as he gets out of the bus. I'm almost done with the main section.


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