I arrived 15 minutes before the next train and decided to get some work done. I grabbed an empty bench. Folders and laptop computer carefully balanced on my lap, I forgot about the baby bullet express. It blew by at 70 mph, and papers went flying over the iron fence to the roadway below. There were no nearby stairs, gates, or openings, so I dithered between climbing and dropping in my leather soles, walking 200 yards around, or just letting the papers go.
While leaning over the fence, my sunglasses fell out of my shirt pocket and landed on the papers. Perfect. The aviator-style wraps were two years old and a little worse for wear; still, they did cost $60.The railing is on the left. (2004 photo of San Mateo Caltrain station.)
A teen zipped up to me on a skateboard. “Are you going to get them [the glasses]?” he asked. It’s a little far for me to jump, and I could use some help
. “I don’t know,” he said doubtfully, peering at them. “It’s kind of far.”
My train pulled up, and I wasn’t going to wait half an hour for the next one, so I boarded. When the doors closed, the little truant hopped the fence, donned “my” glasses, and crowed gleefully to two other companions who skated up to him.
Despite its insignificance, this incident has stayed with me for the past 48 hours (when my portfolio appreciated enough for me to buy a replacement pair many times over). What bothers me is not only the little rapscallion’s refusal to help, but also his active connivance to take advantage of my misfortune. I actually felt sorry for the kid when I thought of the path he was on but then realized he was heading for a successful career in buying foreclosed properties and liquidating companies.
The person who is never wrong says that I should have offered the scamp $5 to fetch my glasses and papers. She always carries a few extra bills for occasions like these, and 9 times out of 10, her offer of “quid” pro quo
has been accepted. Another lesson ruefully learned. © 2007 Stephen Yuen