Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Kindness Of Strangers

I am walking through Leeds market smiling uncontrollably on my way back to the flat. Nothing particularly funny has occurred and I haven't finally landed a job but reflecting on my morning prompts these facial contortions.

I began the day uncomfortably dressing for a job interview. I have one suit jacket and have never actually worn it to work - this under-used garment merely comes out for interviews. Although I'm not completely opposed to suiting up, I'm grateful that up to this point I've never had to sport this stiff shoulder-padded necessity on a daily basis – after interviews I've always gauged smart attire is required but without the need for two piece suits or even jackets. Wearing this jacket I feel like a small child wedgied in the playground. Generally instantly suffering from a faulty internal thermostat after any form of physical exertion, I find it difficult enduring a coat, jacket and shirt/cardigan. Today, I am combating this problem by carrier-bagging up the jacket until I arrive outside my destination. Ingenious?

The journey to my interview is a fair trek but certainly doesn't deter me from the job. A mere hour and a half commute seems like nothing in comparison to the hours spent travelling on a weekly basis for the last year and a half. Arriving from Leeds into Selby, I ask the ticket conductor which platform I should go to and he goes out of his way to give me detailed directions and even sticks his head out of the train nodding encouragingly. Selby is actually such a small station, I'm not sure such close monitoring is necessary but I'm grateful for his time.

A further ten minute train journey and I'm in Howden standing on one of the two station platforms waiting for the level crossing to go up. Three others chatter beside me and I apologise as I break their conversation. Confused my map and the nearby local sign seem to be conflicting, I unfold my print-out and ask the best way to my arrowed destination. The well-dressed American looks confused and asks how I plan to get there. “Walk”, I say. He appears distressed and asks me if I know it is far. I do. The lady beside him looks just as concerned and as the crossing starts to rise, they both suggest I join them in their pre-booked taxi, apologising it may be a squeeze with three already sharing.

Looking out of the window, I watch fields whoosh past on either side and notice the foot path. When planning my route the night before, Google maps had warned me, some of it might be unpaved – today I am glad to see the reality holds none of the dangers Google had implied. One long straight road and we stop at a junction. I get out, offering taxi money to my fellow passengers who refuse to let me contribute and send me in the right direction, wishing me luck.

An hour later and I'm perusing Howden's charity shop, killing time before my lift is ready. Not wanting to jinx the interview, I'll refrain from mentioning it but will say that one of my kindly interviewers afterwards offered me a lift to the station. Walking towards his car, he asks me how I thought the interview went and I hope his assessment of my suitability complements my desire for the job. Again whizzing past the fields and footpath, I hope I might one day walk the walk. And can't help but wonder what amazing results my MBTs might produce after months of walking from the station to work and back again every day?

Back in Leeds and I reward myself with a wee charity-shop crawl towards the market. My final stop before home is the watch stall where I have found the only watch strap seemingly wide enough for my bad boy Kahuna. At a mere £5, it has one drawback. I have never been one to wear gold – clothes or jewellery, however subtle or tasteful. For some reason gold repulses me and the buckle on this watch strap is of course gold. But today I seem to be living in “Pay It Forward” land - the cheery stall owner says “We might be able to sort that” and gets out the tools of his trade. After some spraying and filing he presents me with the same strap with a now almost silver buckle. I am starting to get slightly suspicious and wonder whether there's such a thing as National Goodwill Day and if so, if this is it. I just hope all the good luck I've had and kind people I've met in some way act as an indicator to the interview's outcome.

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