His signaling wave snapped me out of the world.
The world of the jazz music blaring in my ears, from the headphones. And back to earth.
He was not the first to do so, neither was his request a new one. The low one of his voice and his gentle mien told me his intentions before he spoke the first three words. And I already had my answer. Like a graphic design template, lying in a computer folder, waiting to be used on the proper occasion.
These persons were all the same. They told you a story today. And in two days, or a week, or a month, they approached again with the same story, hardly remembering your face. Always being moderately or well dressed, never looking shabby, you would be bound to believe them. I had come across two of them earlier this week, and accordingly, I served them replies from my ever ready templates. As I stood before this one, I quickly scanned my folder for the most suitable template to use. When he was done speaking, I couldn’t find one. Not because he had told a wonderful or captivating story. No, he certainly wasn’t that creative. Perhaps not.
“Please, just help me out, I’m hungry”.
That was it. He presented his case with a simplicity that made me halt. And I pondered; he never gave an excuse for his predicament, he did not put the blame on an extenuating circumstance or unforeseen happening. He simply told me what he needed; he was hungry. Perhaps he was tired of telling stories and explaining himself.
It’s just a novel begging strategy. My head warned. You’ll come across him again with the same story, just like the others.
Be human. My heart pleaded. Judge him on the merits of his own case, not on precedents.
I thought back to the times when I had been judged and misjudged under different circumstances, on different occasions. The verdicts had sometimes been rendered stereo-typically, and sometimes I had been given the benefit of doubt.
“When in doubt, favour the accused”. A teacher once told me. I felt this was the right course to follow.
Whatever decision I had in mind was irrelevant however, for my hands were tied, like some judges would say. Not by legal technicalities, but by empty pockets.
“I’m sorry I have nothing on me right now”. My eyes were downcast. “Perhaps next time.”
He gave a weak smile and nodded.
And I walked away, having been unable to judge him fully on the merits of his case, but with a new precedent for the next case; a fresh template to be added to my folder. And I went back to the world of my headphones.