Recently while on holiday I found myself in a situation where I needed cash quickly. In a foreign land with an empty wallet and ticking clock, the situation was peaking on the stress-level Richter scale.
So who doesn’t carry cash? Well, like most people checking out of their hotel on the final day of a short overseas trip, I used the last of my local currency to pay the bill – after all, Australian stores don’t tend to accept US dollars. So with the bags packed and flights checked in online, I could just drop the bags at the airport and put my feet up while waiting for the flight to board – right?
The hotel had provided me with a taxi that didn’t accept credit cards and upon arrival at the airport, my driver started pointing impatiently at a large sign on the back window that indicated this in bold type.
Much as I felt like launching into a lecture about what year it was, the amazing remote payment technologies that are now available, and how this situation could have been avoided if the “cash only” sign had been pointed out to me at the beginning of the journey, it wasn’t the time or audience. It was the time to embark on a wild dash for cash.
Running off into the vast departures area of the airport and half expecting to see 4 or 5 ATMs straight up, I quickly established that there were none. In fact there wasn’t really anything. The first person I came across was a woman absentmindly dusting a “Please Queue Here” sign.
She wasn’t wearing a badge that said “Airport Information” but she would have to do.
Naturally she had no idea where there was an ATM. “What do you need money for?” she said. “A taxi? How much do you need?” This was taking too long.
“$40?” She continued on, “OK, come with me, I have it.” Not sure where this was going, I followed nonetheless. The woman wandered over to the Korean Airlines desk, reached behind for her purse, and handed me a crisp $100 bill.
$100. To a complete stranger.
“Are you sure?” I said. “You know I will give this back to you, don’t you. That’s why you’re lending it to me, because I have an honest face, and I will return your money”
“No,” she said, “I don’t know if you’ll return the money. But there you go, I will be here.” She turned and started busying herself with other matters.
It was true, she had no idea, only I knew that I would be back. So I paid off the driver, took the woman the $60 change, eventually found an ATM, and returned with the remaining $40. I rushed off to the departure lounge, made the plane, and then completed an otherwise uneventful journey.
But I did reflect on my meeting with Gloria. Was this a random act of kindness? I decided that no, I think for some people, acts of kindness are not random at all, they are lived everyday, and perhaps require very little effort or thought.
The moral of this story could easily be “Don’t step into a cab that doesn’t take credit card if you don’t have any cash”, but really, the message was that their are still plenty of good, trusting people in the world who are prepared to act.