This one is right up there with the time I met a guy with my same rainbow umbrella, and his iPod was playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (see Silver Lining) But this one is better.
Some time during the day last Wednesday, February 2, I realized I still hadn't paid my rent. I think i have a three day grace period, but I am RARELY late on rent, and I pride myself on that, so this initiated a minor panic attack. Still, I recognized that I had options. I would just have to act fast.
Normally on a Wednesday, I'd drop the check off on my way to Rock'n'Bowl for Swing Night. Only there was a private party last Wednesday, no Swing Night. Now, I avoid moving my car at all costs, since I have street parking in the Quarter. But there's always the St. Charles streetcar, which runs right by my office building, and has a stop two blocks from the realty office where I drop my checks.
So that's the only reason I got on the streetcar that day, and ended up sitting a few seats back from a young man in a fedora who sat down on a side facing seat, pulled out his Macbook, and started typing. A few stops later, and old blind man was helped onto the car, and sat down next to him. They began talking about the Superbowl, how Green Bay was going to win, historic football games of note, it was just one of those wonderful moments of incidental acquaintance where everyone within earshot becomes a friend.
When the old man reached his stop, the young man mentioned that he'd left behind some stuff he need to work on, and he helped the old blind man off the streetcar and across the street as if they'd been friends forever. I was pleased and touched to be reminded that there are such effortlessly NICE people in the world, and I texted a good friend about what I'd seen, as one of those made-my-day moments.
But that's not the end of this story.
Last night I decided that there were too many distractions in my apartment, and that going down to the coffee shop for a few hours to finish my book would put me in just the right frame of mind and environment to do some writing afterwards. So I packed up my things and headed down to Community Coffee, on the corner of Royal and St. Philip. (I love living in the French Quarter.)
I was waiting at the counter when he got into line right behind me, the young man with the Macbook. With all my usual finesse, I turned to him and said, "You were on the streetcar. You helped the blind man across the street."
And somehow, with a smile and a laugh, it wasn't weird and awkward, and I was able to tell him how much I had appreciated seeing someone doing something so nice. He thanked me and held out his hand, and said, "I'm Bera, like Yogi, but only one R." So I introduced myself, then it was my turn to order.
I got my coffee, and sat down at a table (with other empty tables nearby). He did come to my area at first, but he needed a power outlet and couldn't find one, so he walked away. Looking around, I realized I was sitting right in front of one, and had been hiding it, and since he was still hovering at the other end of the coffee shop, scanning walls, I went over to him and told him I'd found one.
I offered to move to the next table, but he said the cord would reach, and I didn't have to move. Then he saw my book, Sandworms of Dune, the last of the Dune sequels by Bryan Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. He asked me how Bryan Herbert's Dune books were, and that launched a discussion which also touched on Greek tragedy, PTSD, and Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Then we both subsided into our respective work for the next hour or so, until CCs closed down.
Standing outside the coffee shop, we talked about Clash of the Titans, both the old one and the new one, other movies, Greek epics, aural poetry, Middle English literature, Steinbeck... and where I was headed next. I said I was headed home, but I'd probably stop at Lafitte's to see if anyone I knew was around to say hi to.
"What's Laffite's?" he asked.
"Laffite's Blacksmith Shop? How long have you lived in New Orleans?" I returned.
"A week and a half."
So I told him to come with me, and I explained a bit about Jean Lafitte and the blacksmith shop and bar, and brought him to read the information they have posted on their doors. We went in and I bought him a drink (a Coke, because he doesn't drink much). He let me pay, but said that I needed to let him buy me a drink in return soon. We sat down near the piano in the back and talked for another hour about, well, life and everything. It was that sort of evening.
When we left the bar, he gave me his number ("In case something comes up. I'm really good at lifting things.") and I texted him back with mine and my name ("Ah, Berwick, that's the English/Scottish you mentioned.").
So I had a great evening, just out of nowhere, and I've definitely made a new friend...
And all because I was late with the rent. What kind of lesson is that?