A second act of individual kindness, coincidentally again from a border town in France.
Early 2016. A far too comfortable Londoner relocated overnight to the French-German border town of Strasbourg. Despite the visible and obvious charm of the quaint Alsatian town, I knew little else apart from the practical hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle.
On the morning of my new job, I carefully Google-mapped myself from my apartment to the closest bus stop in the suburb of Krutenau. After making the rookie error of missing a bus by standing in the wrong direction, I’d already become semi-deflated. As minutes passed, it became clear that some buses were proceeding without halting, prompting me to try and examine the information boards with my half-baked knowledge of French. It also hit me that I had left my travel card at home – and anxiously, I turned to my phone’s sketchy web browser to find out if there would be an option to purchase on-board. Little did I notice that there was a small-built, important-looking, senior woman looking on at my triple gaffes in silence.
Soon after, a voice came from behind in French. While I was trying to construct and mumble out a basic response, the lady swiftly changed the conversation into English. I ended up letting her know that I was an absolute bus novice off to the European Quarter to start a new job, and needed some assistance ensuring I was at the right place. I seemed to be in luck. She introduced herself as a civil servant at the European Parliament, and then beamed at the thought of more young people being integrated into the international organisations.
As the bus arrived, she helped confirm how to purchase journey tickets, validate return trips and most importantly, how to politely greet the bus driver – someone who you wouldn’t even make eye contact with in London.
She spent the duration of the journey explaining the best ways to make use of Strasbourg’s public transport services, enlightening me on the town’s most useful bus and tram routes. This included simple life hacks such as which stops to avoid to escape crowds, and which routes to just walk between instead. Not once did she let the transport talk, or her focus to educate me, stray and by the end of the trip, I could gladly breathe a sigh of relief. Day one – and I was no longer going to feel like an outsider on public transport.
As we bid adieu, she expressed her best wishes for my day and extended stay in Strasbourg. Little did she know that her random act of kindness went some way in brightening my day, my stay and my fond memories of Strasbourg – and now she’ll find an anonymous spot on a distant part of the internet.
Four seasons subsequently passed but I never spotted her again at that Krutenau bus stop. Or around the European Quarter. In fact, I have little recollection of what she looked like. Just a sense of feel-good reassurance that sometimes the universe conspires to make things work in your favour.
- Contributed by a writer who prefers to remain anonymous.