August 14th, 2016
I was working, in a groove, and slowly sucking down a White Mocha Frapp, when a man interrupted me. He was lost, trying to get back to his hotel, and his phone wasn’t showing his location. The foreigner in his mid 60’s I’d say, visiting with his wife to explore Colorado, wore a friendly but uncomfortable smile.
I immediately tried to help him. I’ve been out of place pretty much everywhere I’ve ever gone in my life, but haven’t had the pleasure (or pain) of visiting a foreign land, trying to properly form the words of its native tongue, and working up the courage to approach the nearest stranger to request assistance. I’m not looking forward to that day in the slightest, for the record. But, in the meantime, I offered the man my attention and whatever help I could provide.
He showed me his phone, offered the name of his hotel, and pointed out his inability to connect to the WiFi. I glanced at his phone and became immediately intimidated by the strange characters on his phone. As he typed them in English, they instantly converted to a language unfamiliar to me.
The man explained that he and his wife were visitors from Israel, here to explore many of the state’s landmarks and tourist traps, however, after enduring a 24 hour flight from Israel, they were absolutely exhausted. He mentioned that they stopped at the 16th street mall, but were ready to fall down (from exhaustion presumably). My first instinct was to mention that he was lucky that that’s the only way they were falling down — after all the violence and criminal activity on 16th in recent months, they’re lucky to be alive at all! I cleared my throat, and all suggestions rattling around in my mind that would only cause them fear for that matter, and proceeded to investigate his hotel situation.
The hotel he mentioned didn’t match the address given. I searched until I found a small area that contained both, and determined that he would need to explore the area (about an hour’s drive away) to find which hotel was the one he sought. He graciously thanked me, but his wife — who just wasn’t having it today — came in and sat at the table across from mine. She spoke to him — whether in Hebrew or Arabic, or other, I knew not — and with tired eyes and contagious frown, she urged him for an explanation. You could just feel this woman’s pain. On a normal day, she was probably just as upbeat and friendly as her husband was, but today she paid no attention or pleasantries to myself or anyone else. She just wanted to lay down. I didn’t need to be multilingual to understand that.
After a few hits and misses for directions, we formed a game plan. I suggested the man restart his phone to reacquire signal, and post-reboot, it caught his location just as we had hoped.
At that point, they both thanked me and left the shop with much needed confidence to find their way back.
Pretty uneventful story, I suppose. But it distracted me from my work enough to start type-type-typing away because something about it stuck out in my mind. After seeing so many hate groups and ‘Mericans (not to be confused with Americans) on the news and in the papers, it occurred to me that in any other establishment, or rather any establishment with closed-minded people who hide behind misdirected fear, this Israeli couple may have had to deal with people who wouldn’t make the slightest attempt to be helpful. They might do even worse. Throw around phrases like “go home.” “Go back where you came from.” Or even. Fucking. Worse. And that just frustrates the fuck right out of me.
I realize I wasn’t really all that helpful, but I really did try. I’m about an hour behind in work now, but I’d say it was worth it knowing the older Israeli couple dealt with someone sincerely trying to help than the alternative. I hope they get where they’re going and have a good trip. And well-meaning visitors from other lands all around the world just like them. This world kind of sucks. The least we can do is learn to share it and be friends with our neighbors.