In a galaxy long ago but not so far away, before the euro replaced the punt, the EU begat the Celtic Tiger and the Tiger morphed into a financial litter box, I was dead broke in Dublin. I didn’t know anyone in town, was sleeping on a sagging dormitory couch, had an airline ticket a week away from being useful, and was otherwise having a good time. That is, if you consider that many of the things I wanted to do and see in town were free – except eating and drinking.
Fortunately, this was before Guinness was sold to a multinational and its brewery tour Disneyfied. In those days you could stand in line for free admission, see a boring but mercifully brief film, be given a hard hat and told to stay behind the yellow lines while you tried to hear the guide shouting over the brewing process. After we saw what there was to see, we were ushered into the brewery’s pub for a free pint and a wonderful buffet full of food aimed at soaking up our stomach-full of stout.
Somewhere in the middle of my third tour of the week the guide caught my eye and pulled me aside. He knew my game and told me I could skip the tour and go straight to the end. He nodded to one of his mates across the way, who took me firmly by the arm. The man was making sure I didn’t fall into any of the machinery we wove through, but my mind said he would soon be giving me a tour to the back door. I began wondering about the whereabouts of pubs with carveries and locals who’d buy a stranger a pint.
After a few minutes of silent walking along the production line I found myself at the back door to the pub/gift shop, where my new mate tossed me an apron and told me to start putting out the platters. I was working on my second pint by the time the rest of the tour group made it in.
After re-introducing himself, the first guide asked me when my flight was and told his buddy that I’d be helping out for the next few days. The second man wrote me a paper pass that would get me to the right part of the building. Nutrition issue resolved.
The next day my guardian angel/guide stopped by as I was cleaning up and asked me again about my flight. His tone led me to believe I was being retired from my new career then and there. After I told him, he frowned, put his massive arm around my shoulder and walked me away from the crowd. “Well that creates a problem,” he muttered to me, “since we’d planned on ye being here for a few days longer. But anyway,” he continued, letting me know where and when to be at dark-thirty in the morning a few days hence, so he could give me a ride to the airport.
The good news? There are still people like him, all over the world.
The bad news? A lot of human decency and generosity has been handcuffed and smothered by the institutionalization of society. Have rules, regulations and the threat of litigation smothered the expression of human goodness? Is there room for Good Samaritans in today’s society?