The much threatened snow storm finally hit, and when it did it was an anti-climax of sorts. Rather than the promised chaos and long tail backs, there were only mild disruptions at most. I suspect the winter has a lot more sting in its tail, but its first salvo has been under-whelming at worst. Given the town’s penchant for gory, frightful winters, I’ll take under-whelming any time.
One evening, I am standing just inside the doors at Union Square – earphones plugged in with The Script on repeat, hands in my coat pockets and looking out – as the maelstrom of humanity just belched out by the 18:17 train from Dyce sweeps by. I am usually at home by this time – heaters fired up, warm drink in hand, catching up on re-runs of NCIS – but I am out today waiting to pick up a friend whose train should have arrived a few minutes earlier. He and I haven’t met up in at least three years – I suspect it’s probably more – even though we have kept in touch via email and the odd phone call here and there. He has been holidaying, taking in the sights of Europe
and gate crashing one party too many whilst checking yet more places off his places-to-see-before-I-die list. A chance conversation a couple of weeks before helped make up his mind to toss in a sleep over at mine – the final pit stop before the train that is his holiday hurtles on to Nigeria and a return to the drudgery of work. A quick glance at the arrivals board at the station alerts me to the unfortunate fact that his train has been delayed by a further fifteen minutes.
Out of the corner of my eye I see a man – I reckon he is at least 6-2 as he has at least a head on me – hovering around in the manner of one either lost or a predator lurking, waiting for an opportune moment to strike. Instinctively, I shorten the straps on my knapsack and hug my coat a little closer until I sense the reassuring touch of my wallet with its assortment of cards on my hip. Such is the ingrained fear of pick pockets in me that I immediately tense up, half expecting to lose something. I casually turn a little, hoping to get a clearer line of sight to him – in my mind my counter espionage skills rival those of Nick Carter – N3, agent extraordinaire at AXE. My manoeuvre unfortunately is one that plays into his hands. Realising he has my attention, he begins to amble in my direction.
Whatever complacency is left in my inner Nick Carter is driven off when he speaks
– Bros, he begins, you be Naija shey?
I ponder the ramifications of answering in the affirmative for a few seconds and then decide to humour him by replying in what I hope is a sufficiently brusque – Yes.
Seemingly heartened by my answer he proceeds to download a spiel about how he’s been up to TheBZ to visit a business associate who has ended up duping him. The cliff notes version is that he is 30 pounds short of the total amount required to get a train ticket to head back to London.
– I am a family man you know, he adds, it is just sad that my own Nigerian brother will do this to me. He speaks with the affectation of one who feels broken and used.
Maybe I am in a good mood, or it is the spectre of Christmas looming large at the back of my mind, but for once I decide to humour him, especially as I have a few minutes to kill before the train bearing my friend arrives.
– 30 pounds, you say, I ask him again to make sure. He nods, a little too eagerly I think. I motion for him to follow me, explaining that as I do not have cash on me, I will have to buy the ticket with my card.
The disappointment on his face is clear for me to see. Apparently he had been hoping I would complete his fare by cash. I firmly explain that I do not have any cash on me. He insists, if I can’t give it to him by cash, he’ll pass and wait for someone else who can. Somewhere in between, he turns abruptly and walks away from me. I shrug, walk back to my vantage watching spot and resuming waiting for Ally’s train.
In truth, I could use the 30 pounds myself, what I don’t understand is what happened to beggars having no choice?