Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

The kids were out of school this week, and we took a ferry and rail trip to Scotland. We had fun, though there are some things we should (and will) do differently next time. I’m sure that Becky will write more about our trip; perhaps I will also. The trip home yesterday, though, was far from smooth. We were saved, though, by the kindness of strangers.

First, Becky left her purse on the first train of the day. As we got off at our stop, Noah was throwing a temper tantrum. I was getting the larger luggage and the big kids off the train and, while struggling with the tantruming toddler, she just left it under the edge of her seat. It was a short connection, and she realized it was missing as we boarded the next train five minutes later. But the purse was long gone, on a train that wouldn’t stop again before London. We reported the missing purse to the conductor on our new train, and he called the station to contact the train we had departed. We didn’t hear anything back through the expected channels, but when we tracked down the right number to call later in the afternoon, we found that the purse had gotten to exactly where it was supposed to be, iPhone and all. There have been some logistical problems with getting it shipped back to us—they wanted us to come and get it and have had some IT problems with setting up the shipment—but it is going to happen soon I think. I’m grateful for the strangers, employees or passengers from the train and the staff at the stations, who made this happen.

Second, and more personally, when we arrived at Holyhead station to board our 5:15 p.m. ferry we found that it—a fast ferry prone to cancel in high seas—had been canceled. We were already scheduled to get home at the children’s bedtime, and we didn’t really have a backup plan. The next Irish Ferries ferry was a slow ferry at 2:00 in the morning—not a viable option for a family with small children. There was also a slow Stena Line ferry at 9:30 p.m., but pedestrians were not permitted, only vehicle passengers. As we stood in the terminal, pondering our next move, a man approached us. He asked if we had been planning to take the 5:15 p.m. ferry. He said that he had been, also, and, while he had planned to go as a pedestrian, he had his car and, if he could get a refund on his Irish Ferries ticket, he would be taking the Stena Line. Would we be interested in squeezing into his car to get on the ferry? We worried a bit about if this was some kind of scam, but he seemed sincere. After he got his refund with Irish Ferries, I went with him to the Stena Line desk to make our booking and felt more secure after I paid Stena Line directly for our portion of the fare.

And, it worked out fine. He is a composer from England who, judging by his website, is quite successful. All five of us piled into his little Volkswagen Beetle with him and rode onto the ferry. Our exhausted children resisted sleep for the entire ferry ride, watching Curious George over and over again in the play room on the ferry, and, when we got to Dublin, we piled back into his car, and he drove us off the ferry. There, he dropped us off and continued his journey to Belfast, refusing my offer of money. We called a Taxi to take us the remaining five minutes to home, and put the kids in bed at about 2 a.m.

I have this stranger’s name and email address, and we’re trying to come up with an appropriate gesture of thanks, perhaps a charitable donation in his honor… But, in any case, we are tremendously grateful for the kindness of strangers, seen and unseen, who helped us on our way.