Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Cheers? I’d rather a kick in the teeth!

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Hello all. It has been a long time since I wrote on Mr. Miles’ blog last. I apologize for my lack of presence here. I have been stoned. I have been skiing. I have been living life without thinking. I have taken risks. I have won, and I have lost. Over the last few days I have reflected. Hopefully, my reflection has made me better. I would like to share thoughts from the last five days that I have spent in London with all of you because I think my time here dovetails nicely with the question that Miles’ last piece writing raises. How do we change the world?

As I said, I’ve been in London for almost a week now. I’m here on business. I have felt uncomfortable during my time here. Not physically uncomfortable. I’m staying at one of the nicest hotels in town. Someone opens the door to the entrance as I approach. Someone turns down my bed while I’m at dinner. In fact, they go even farther than that. They fold the clothes that I’ve haphazardly strewn across the floor. They put the change in piles on the desk so that the 1 pound coins are in a stack next to the 50 pence pieces which are stacked next to the 20 pence pieces and so on. There is an incredible amount of care put into arranging my things. For some reason, that is supposed to make me feel comfortable. Well, it fucking doesn’t. I don’t even like it. It annoys me. I don’t want people tending to my stuff. I want people to engage me, and they don’t do that here. Almost no one has since I got here. And maybe it’s my fault. I am a business man, a man of high finance. I’ll don a suit and ask pointed questions in a meeting with someone twice my age with multiples of my wealth, but I’d like to think I’m a human being first. I like to befriend janitors in the same way I like to befriend CEOs. Hugs, real hugs, where you feel like you take a piece of someone else with you and like you leave a piece of yourself in their arms are one of my favorite parts of earthly existence. I haven’t had one of those since I got here. People are polite. The “blue collar class” goes above and beyond to do things for the “white collar class,” but it’s done like with a sense of duty, not a sense of care.

I eat my meals alone as I’m alone here and my girlfriend would, understandably, be upset if I invited young ladies to dinner every night. So, I sit at the bar for meals. I try to engage the bartender. No luck. They chuckle at what I say as if I were a comedian instead of a diner. Then it’s back to their business. I just want to connect. Frankly, I’d like someone to yell at me or threaten to kick my ass. I feel like the small child who lashes out to receive negative attention because he’s so fed up with receiving no attention at all. Even then, even when I act like an ass on the phone to the front desk or I harangue the concierge about a package that I have yet to receive, I get nothing but the most polite, least engaged response. “We’ll check on that, sir.” “Right away, sir.” “I am very sorry for your inconvenience, sir.” Either make me feel like you really give a damn or tell me to shut the hell up, but enough with the bullshit and the sir.

Only once during my stay did I feel connected with someone. As I trundled down the escalator into the underground (subway), I heard a voice filling the void of human spirit that existed in the crowd of commuters all around me. I continued through the tunnels toward my train and the voice got louder. “Sittin’ on the dock of the bay…” One of my favorite songs. A chill ran through me. I turned the corner and a man of about 50 years stood in front of me with a guitar belting it out like he were Otis Redding himself. I paused in front of him and the sea of people in the tunnel split to accomodate my decision. I dropped a one pound coin into his guitar case that contained only a handful of 10 and 20 pence pieces. He looked at me and whispered something that was inaudible. I met his eyes and bowed my head slightly in acknowledgement of the beauty he was creating. I wanted to yell at everyone else to listen to hug each other to sing to shout, shit, to hit each other if they wanted. At least in New York, people run into you as you walk down the street. They yell at you when you stop walking in the middle of a crowd. These people just politely passed wordless, emotionless, meaningless.

So, how do you add meaning? How do you change the world? Do you do it in a subway with a deep voice and a guitar? I don’t know. But, I do know how you change someone’s day. I do know how to connect. That guy changed my day, and it meant a lot that I changed his.

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Written by bianj

March 12, 2008 at 9:38 pm

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