Sometimes it's easy to forget, but people have not become so desensitised as to have forgotten how to help their fellow human beings.
A heartwarming combination of human virtues
Confused of Khalidiya. The words might as well have been stamped on my forehead as I wandered around the sprawling out-of-town complex of the Abu Dhabi Police traffic section. It had been one of those mornings. Someone had damaged my hired car while it was parked at Khalidiya Mall and I needed a police report. This was the third location to which I had been directed in my attempt to obtain one, and at last I was in luck.
A friendly official appeared from nowhere to confirm I was in the right place. He led me through corridors and along outdoor paths until we reached an out-of-the-way office where such matters were attended to. Then he was gone and I never discovered whether he had merely been doing his duty or was performing an unsolicited act of human kindness. At King's Cross station in London a few days ago, another official combined duty and kindness to an extent that caused me to wonder whether I had been a little harsh on Britain in last week's column, when I described a country that had seemed to go tabloid and antisocial.
A niece had suffered two epileptic fits while flying back from holiday in Canada. I had arranged in any case to collect her at Heathrow and get her across the capital and on to a northbound train. She was travelling with my sister and her own niece, a demanding toddler, plus a staggering amount of luggage. At King's Cross, my niece needed to answer nature's call, but felt dizzy after we parted and fell. A young couple went to her assistance, helped her to the toilet and then into the lobby of railway offices. We, in the meantime, scoured the station concourse in vain for our missing relative. A loudspeaker message from the information desk led to one Ian Whittles, station manager for the National Express travel rail and bus operator, locating us with reassurance that she was safe.
Ian could not have been more helpful. Told that my relatives' train was not due to leave for another two hours, he offered to transfer them to an earlier service. "Are you sure you can do that?" I asked. "I'm the manager," he reminded me. Seats were found on a train leaving almost immediately. A porter and Ian himself helped me drag the cases towards the carriage where he'd found vacant seats. Phone calls were made to staff at the destination 350km away to ensure help was on hand for the arrival. My niece was still far from well but a paramedic was waiting at the other end and the homeward journey was completed without further hitch.
No one would want to read too much into a single episode in which consideration was shown towards people who needed a little assistance and comfort. But it was all done with cool efficiency and smiles, which struck me as a heartening combination of traditional British - or maybe just human - virtues, and I am happy to take back at least some of what I said about the old country. firstname.lastname@example.org