"It turns out that your neighbour on the plane/bus/train (or the person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop) is a very, very chatty tourist. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?”
by John Yeo
Yes this looks a good place. A restaurant by the lakeside, in the middle of this beautiful park in the city centre. I will sit here and buy a pot of tea and watch the world go by in the peace and tranquility of a Sunday afternoon.
"Your tea Sir!"
The waitress arrived with a bone china teapot and a single cup and saucer, with a familiar willow pattern blue and white design.
I am entranced with the swans gliding across the water and the beautiful surroundings of the lakeside banks.
"Hi! Do you mind if I join you? There are no other tables available."
This unwarranted intrusion into my solitary reverie was made by a voice with a distinctive loud foreign accent. Without waiting for a reply from me, a rather portly gentleman sat directly opposite and signalled to the waitress.
"Pleased to meet you! My name is Nathan, I am a visitor to your wonderful land, I am here on a business trip. I am from Quebec in Canada, what a beautiful city this is. You live here all the time? "
I was so overcome with this shattering bombardment of intrusive voluble stream. I just scowled, nodded and mumbled, "Yes!"
"You Sir, are a very lucky man." Nathan continued, "There is so much going on here , theatre, the arts, concerts and the historical palaces. Everywhere you look history is overwhelming your senses. Who do I have the pleasure of addressing?"
This last question came out of the blue, I was so battered by bonhomie, I simply answered one word again. "John!"
" Well John," Nathan continued, "I really am glad to meet you, I have very little time to spend here and I am looking for a reliable guide to recommend some places to visit and sights to see. My wife Mary is an invalid and she has to have treatment in a clinic here. I am travelling with her and our daughter, I need someone to show us around while Mary is indisposed. I am prepared to pay for the privilege."
I shook my head in sheer disbelief that a total stranger could shatter my peace and suddenly without a formal introduction or any knowledge of me whatsoever, suddenly offer me a job. I was suspicious of his incredibly easy approach and his whole lax demeanour.
"Wait! What?" I stammered, my curiosity aroused. "Why me? You don't even know who I am."
"John! I have an unerring instinct for an honest, reliable person, I have been coming here to this country for years and I bet you any money you like you are just the person I am looking for. Would you take me on trust and consider my offer. I would like you to meet my family here tomorrow at the same time. Would you consider that?"
I had no idea what the outcome of this meeting would be as I nodded my head and agreed to his proposal.
Nathan then went on to describe his business and his home state in Canada, and I began to warm to his friendly attitude as he drew me out of my shell. I described myself and my studies at the University and he listened with a friendly interest.
The next morning I was very early in the restaurant by the lakeside in the park, sipping my tea and watching the swans floating on the water.
"Hi John!" A now familiar voice came from behind, I turned to see Nathan my new friend pushing a lady in a wheelchair, "This is my wife Mary."
"Pleased to meet you." I gasped, as I recognised the young lady who was strolling behind them, smiling and laughing.
Nathan grinned and said. "No more introductions are necessary, I know you and my daughter Marie are great friends at the University. I wanted to meet you and get to know you personally."
I was so stunned and overcome with happiness, I just mumbled one word.
Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved