My partner and I have been having fierce debates about me giving money to people I perceive as “poor” that I meet in the streets: we have opposite views, as ever.
Anyway, this afternoon, as I was waiting for my coffee fix in my local cafe, I saw this Thai gentleman, anywhere between 60 and 70, shuffling by with the aid of his walking stick. I often see him and I notice him because he is well-dressed and dignified. As he rummaged through rubbish tips for plastic bottles that he collects to sell for mere pennies.
I have often wondered about him. And sometimes, my heart aches over him when I think about him toiling in smelly rubbish tips, balancing on his walking stick, going through rotting garbage just to earn a few baht.
Today, on impulse, I dashed out of the restaurant and took his arm. He looked at me in surprise. I wish I spoke Thai, but the sad fact is, I don’t. I have a very limited vocabulary.
“Gaw pad gai,” I said with a big smile. “Cha yen. Chicken fried rice. Milky tea.
The old guy understood me and a smile spread across his face. He hobbled into the cafe with me, put down his bag of plastic bottles at the entrance and sat down. “Please tell him to order anything he wants,” I said to the proprietress who spoke good English. “We are on a date!”
She explained to my lunch date in Thai, and I swear, I have never seen such an incredulous, happy smile!
He did not eat much. He just picked the pre-cooked dishes sitting on the counter – fish, bamboo shoots and some veggies – and a large coffee.
He belched apologetically but with satisfaction at the end of the meal, and I tell you, I almost did the same. And then we both went off on our own separate ways, our lives immeasurably richer for the shared meal. It was one of my most rewarding lunch dates ever…and for once, I did not wish to have lunch with my usual date 🙂 Sorry, love, had something else to do 😛