Just before Christmas last year, I took an uber home from Oxford Street with two girls I had never met before. I never saw either of them again. Alas, this is not a story of the universe conspiring to form fateful, undying friendships.
I had finished work in Soho late, which wasn’t unusual. The underground was closed, so I walked to the bus stop outside the flagship Urban Outfitters to await the trusty N8, which would take its sweet time along the way, but would deliver me essentially door to door. Only on this particularly chilly night, the next N8 wasn’t due for another fifty two minutes. I checked citymapper and prayed, fleabag style, that one would ‘magically appear’, cresting the hill like a red behemoth beast. But it didn’t. It was already past one and I was due back at work at eleven. Just as I was about to despair, salvation came in the form of two similarly stranded girls, also bereft by the lack of N8. We decided in the style of true sisterhood to share an uber. I was the only one with battery on my phone, so I booked us a car and within minutes we were on our way. Uber being relatively new to me at this time (I held out, living in london without it for 3 years, because i reasoned -since proved correctly- that it would drain my bank balance) I didn’t know you could set a location with multiple stop offs, so set the destination for my address with the other two reasoning they could leap out whenever they spotted they were on home ground. Our driver, Andreas, was charming and courteous from the off. He called us, to say that he was waiting down a smaller side street, so we wouldn’t have to worry about avoiding traffic when getting into the car. He let us charge our phones, providing cables and usb sockets. Asked whether we preferred music or quiet. He was intrigued to learn as we chatted a little, that we were not in fact, friends on the way home from a night out. When we explained our situation and how the three of us had come to be sardined in the back of his car, he laughed, and seemed charmed at the idea of girls clubbing together to stay safe. ‘You’d never see three lads do that’. He was probably right.
Without any of us asking, and without charging us on the app, he quietly insisted on taking each of us to our respective addresses, even allowing the last girl to rebook him on her own freshly charged phone, for the last leg of her journey.
As I climbed the stairs to my apartment, I felt giddy and alive. Lying in bed, I mused on what a strange, benevolent night it had been. I would be knackered come morning, and yes the N8 would have been cheaper. But my faith in humanity, my belief in the power of good, was soaring. A stranger had gone out of his way, spared his time, probably put himself out of pocket, all to make sure three young girls got home safe.
It may seem like a small event now, inconsequential, as so many things do given our current situation. But it got me thinking; how many of our lives are different because of an act of kindness by a stranger?
It turns out, writing during this outbreak, is pretty tricky. Something I began writing two weeks ago is now not only irrelevant but inappropriate. The narrative has changed. Two weeks ago, we were laughing about this. How awful that seems now.
I’ve put pen to paper so many times to write about solidarity, friendship, the heroism of the NHS workers. But with the state of play shifting day in, day out, I don’t feel I can do any of these topics justice. It doesn’t feel right.
One thing that seems to be a recurring theme amongst most people. Is a feeling of helplessness. Of wanting to help, wanting to do something, but not knowing how or what. I am no doctor. I am no scientist. I don’t know what will happen over the next three months. I could tell you to stay positive, or to drink water, find a new routine. I could tell you to wash your hands. But who am I to say any of those things to you?
So what I choose to say instead is this: If ever you have depended on the kindness of a stranger, return the favour now. Stay home. Strangers everywhere, people you will never meet, need you to stay at home. Until far too recently, we as a country had no idea how important this was. But we do know now. And whilst the consequences of ignoring this quarantine might not be immediately visible, they exist, and they are devastating. But we are not helpless. The greatest kindness, we, the general public can do for those most at risk, is to put aside our personal wants and desires. And simply: Stay At Home.
The Buzz Girl
P.S. Should you feel compelled to do something…