The pain of being good


It was a Sunday. Sundays are, weather wise at least, normally not very nice days in the author’s opinion, experience or even memory. The author remembers more rainy Sundays than those which provide a weather condition that at least gives a clue why the name Sunday contains the word ‘sun’ at all. Maybe it means something else?

Early morning started with with grey clouds, breakfast with slight rain, lunch with heavy rain but by afternoon tea the rain stopped and it even showed sunshine. (the dear reader asked not to take the time measurements too literally). So the author, lets just call him Erik, made a decision: Let’s go out and take some nice photos of people and the streets. And stuff. It was based on the assumption that after the rain the streets would not be that crowded and might look a bit cleaner and neater.

In fact – they did and in fact – there were fewer people on Brick Lane than usual for a Sunday afternoon. Not that it was empty, just less crowded. Erik liked that. But then, he made a mistake. He went to a small park (actually not that small but compared to other parks in London like Regents or St James, not to mention Hyde Park which is so huge that …. ok. So. Small park.) and because there was not much to see, he was just about to go back onto  Brick lane, when he saw a mobile phone on a bench. And since he couldn’t see any potential owner, he picked it up. It was turned on, and although Erik is not the most technical of people, he found the redial button and saw the last number called was to Daddy.

This seemed to make it easy. Daddy is relatively easy to identify. So Erik dialed pressed the “call“ button. And here it started. First, it turned out that the phone was a pre-paid one and there was not enough credit on the card to make that call. Erik did not need listen to the full message of the woman talking to him, he knew her voice from the Orange voicemail service and wondered who she was and whether she enjoyed her job.

So Erik got out his phone and dialed the number. After hearing the boring “tooooot“ (in England it is actually more a “tooooot“ than a “tuuuuut“ as it is in Germany, or the unidentifiable noise I once heard in Estonia). Erik decided to dial the second number: Faith. Faith reminded him of that great movie “Strange days“. Erik liked that movie. So he called. And it was amazing, someone answered. A woman.

So far Erik was sure. He was not so sure about what she was saying. Either she had a very, very strong accent or she was a bit drunk. She talked too fast and she she swallowed words. It took Erik a while to understand that she was not even near Brick lane. She told him to meet her at a hostel, the “old town hostel“. Erik agreed – and 15 tourists and locals later he was sure of one thing: whereever this hostel was, it was not near Brick lane.

And it was totally unknown. So he called Faith again. Now he heard that Faith was not only not near Brick Lane, but in somewhere called Lambeth. Without a map, Erik was not 100% sure where Lambeth was, asking seemed appropriate – however the answer “Lambeth is … Lambeth“ was not what Erik defined as helpful. But he tried not to be annoyed, so he asked Faith if she could come into town and meet him.

She agreed or at least he thought she did, and what he understood was that he should go to an Argos shop on Commercial Street. Commercial Street he knew, it was not even that far. And he thought it should be easy to find Argos there. It should have been, but  there was no Argos. However, there was an Argos close to the road, on Whitechapel Road, and he remembered or thought that the Faith woman had mentioned a small park opposite Argos and on Whitechapel there was actually a small park opposite Argos.

He called Faith. She was still in Lambeth. This should have told Erik something, since there had been 30 minutes between calls. But  Faith confirmed it was the Argos on Whitechapel and told him she it might take her something like half an hour to get there. Time to wait, so he passed Argos and went into to a small supermarket and bought a Coke (ok… a Jim Beam coke) and a Snickers, for a small picnic in the park while waiting for her. 45 minutes later he called Faith. She was still in Lambeth obviously.

Erik got a bit annoyed but he was sitting in the sun, enjoyed looking around and and gave up the idea to take any nice photos today. So he ignored the annoyed feeling and agreed to wait in front of Argos (as he was alredy doing) for her. It would take her 45 minutes, maybe an hour. The whole operation had already taken around two hours, but it was Sunday, so Erik had time. Meanwhile “Daddy“ called back on the missed call. He was very polite and happy when I told him I had found his daughter’s phone (I assumed it was a female owner as it had pictures of flowers on the display…) and that I had called a friend of hers, Faith,  and she was going to come and pick it up.

Erik got the feeling he knew who Faith was, so he got the feeling he was doing the right thing.

But waiting an hour was boring and he saw a Starbucks, which not only offers Overpriced, but good coffee, but also free wifi. So he went in, ordered a super large Café Laté (less tall than onet he once got in New York in a shop of the same name) and sat down, reading Facebook messages and some newsletters which he had so far ignored. 15 minutes before Erik was supposed to meet Faith, he got a text with a request to call her. Erik called and Faith asked if he would be in front of Argos.

Erik was surprised that she was already there – but he had misunderstood her. She was still in Lambeth, but now she would be coming in 1 or 2 hours. Erik was not that happy anymore. So he got a little bit more harsh of tone. 1 hour max he would wait. Faith mumbled something like “ok“. Erik had a bad feeling but what were his options? He could, of course, just go home and keep the phone. But this was not his style. He could just give it to the woman at Starbucks and tell Faith where to get it. But from his experience with the woman on the phone, this would be more than  difficult.

So he stayed and he waited. One more hour. Then he went out to meet Faith in front of Argos. There were many people passing by, not surprising as the entrance to Brick lane with its many bars and restaurants and clubs was close.

Faith did not show up, she called him. (Please excuse me that I am not 100% sure about all the various phone calls, the one where I called her and she did not pick up and then she called back asking who I am and why I was calling her… not the sharpest knife in the drawer….) just to make sure she would find him in front of Argos when she arrived. Which would be in 5 minutes.

15 Minutes later Erik called her. Faith was not sure again who he was but she was close, very close, just 10 minutes.

And really. 10 minutes later,  Faith called him again, asking where he was. Erik confirmed he would be standing right in front of Argos shop (which he had never been inside, the place had a negative image for him. Faith said she couldn’t see him. He turned round and saw her. 30 meters away, standing in front of Starbucks….

He didn’t wonder why she was standing there. He didn’t care. All he wanted was to give her the phone. So he did. He also wanted to tell her why he had called her, but she was not interested in the why at all. She took the phone, not even looking at it, put in her back pack and then asked Erik if he would like to have a drink. Erik normally always likes a drink, but he was actually hungry and wanted to go home and watch the game, so he said no. Faith was disappointed.

“Why don’t you want to buy me a drink?“  Erik was not sure he had heard right. “Pardon?“ “Don’t you have one pound for a drink?“ she asked. Erik was not sure what to say. After making him wait for so long, he not only was unsure if the real owner of the phone would ever get it, she actually asked him to give her money.

So for the first time of the day he did something he felt 100% good with: He turned around and left.

So, this is it to be good in London. To do good. It is a story of disappointment, of unneeded trouble, of a waste of time.

Would I do it again? I am afraid….yes. (as long as I do not have to meet Faith again)

P.S: Thanks Nigel for supporting me on this blog!

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