This happened exactly middle of last year during my two-week vacation.
Ferry ride is not for someone like me with a sissy stomach. Notwithstanding, my sister and I managed to buy food and drinks upon boarding. I chose macaroni and cheese, which appeared delectable, plus a vegetable salad. But as soon as we started eating, the dizziness kicked in, turning the insides of my abdomen upside down.
Taking two tabs of anti-dizzy med, I closed my eyes for several minutes hoping the feeling of nausea would go away. My sister with a more robust stomach likewise took one tablet after munching some burger and french fries. She then decided to discontinue snacking, opting to take a stroll around.
“Just leave me here, I’ll be fine.” I assured her before she walked away while I took my tray to sit at a more convenient table in the front.
Hardly a minute had elapsed when I heard movement in the back. Curious, I turned around and saw a man just about to devour what was left of my sister’s meal which were a few fries and half of a sandwich burger. The man was chubby, with a moustache (though decent-looking), and wearing an orange vest. He was probably in his late 30s or early 40s. His veneer hardly gave away the notion he eats passengers’ leftover meals.
Trying not to show surprise, I sat up straight again. My mind, however, was digesting the unexpected sight as it never occurred to me such cases exist in a country like the UK.
Since I couldn’t finish my snack as well, I decided to stand up and leave my table to see what the man would do next. Sure enough, as soon as I reached a certain distance, he placed himself in front of the more recently abandoned food and ate what had remained of my macaroni and cheese – he didn’t touch the vegetables.
He mustn’t have had any money to be able to buy his own meal, I inferred. Yet he was not bothering anyone for some cash so he could feed himself. He’d just sit down quietly and finish uneaten food left behind by ferry travelers and would clean up after he was done. He even seemed embarrassed being caught doing that.
I reached for my purse, looked for something that could buy him a good full meal. Maybe I had a 5 or 10-pound bill to spare him. Alas, I had neither. The minimum inside my purse was a 20-pound bill. I hesitated, estimating the two months’ worth of breakfast/lunch/dinner I could purchase with this money back in my country.
“But I am never going to see this person again. There won’t be another chance I could be of one-time help to him,” I convinced myself.
He was already reading a newspaper when I approached him at the same table. I stretched out my hand holding the 20-pound bill. He was stunned for a few seconds. “For me?” he managed to ask. I just nodded without saying anything. An uncomfortable few more seconds ticked by before he finally took the money from my hand, inserted it in his orange-vest pocket and bowed his head down again to continue reading. Maybe he felt a little embarrassed, but I didn’t know how else I could have done it.
I searched for my sister, and told her about the poor man. She subsequently cast a look at him.
A number of hours had already passed when on our way to the hotel she hazarded I must have given the man a little money. I didn’t deny. She asked how much. I told her the truth. She said, “Okay, but that’s equivalent to more or less 2000 in pesos.” I reasoned not having had a lesser denomination in possession.
“And he’s probably a mental case,” my sister dismissed.
Hmm, that possibility hadn’t entered my mind.
All the same, I hoped the poor guy was able to buy himself some food with the small amount of money (in London standards) I handed over to him.