Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Instant Karma

Even though we are borrowing Chris and Jess's car, I decided that the train was the best way for my cousin James to get to the airport. Maybe this was my first mistake. Read on and see if you can pinpoint the moment that I went wrong.

Central Station is just far enough away that you need to get a ride if you're hoofin' it with a just-under-the-20-kg-limit suitcase, a carry-on and maybe a jacket or purse. James's luggage was modest in size and weight, but I opted for a cab anyway and phoned the concierge to call us one. Just five minutes later, the taxi driver buzzes to say he's downstairs. We meet him there about 90 seconds later, but somehow the meter reads $5.70. "What?!" I exclaim. "That's really rough." The driver assures me that it isn't and encourages me to read the square-shaped sticker on pricing. I skimmed it, but argued with him anyway, claiming that there's no way he had been waiting long enough to start the meter at $5.70.

The station couldn't be more than a mile and a half from our place, but it feels like it takes ages to get there. The meter races up to $13.80 by the time he stops the cab and he asks for an additional $2 on top of that. I refuse. I borrow James's money because I don't want to give this guy my fifty dollar bill. I hand him $13.80, the amount still shown on the meter. He starts yelling at me and refuses to open the trunk where James's suitcase is. Poor innocent James is listening to this guy rage about how he knows where I live and will charge me for fare evasion. I'm flustered, embarrassed, anxious.

As I attempt to get out of the cab and pull my bag along with me, my thumb gets stuck in the patent leather strap. My nail bends backward and immediately it starts to bleed and sting. Instant karma. I'm angry and in pain and James is still listening to this guy from inside the cab. We can't win. I give him the rest of the money and bang on the rear window, demanding that he unlock the trunk.

I bought James's train ticket, embarrassed that he had paid for an expensive ride made more so by my behavior, and washed my hands in the ladies room. I emerged with clean hands, but a messy conscience. I hugged James goodbye and hoped that memories of his trip to Sydney wouldn't be tarnished by the last 20 minutes of our time together.

This drama unfolded this morning and I haven't yet gotten over it. Some of us believe in a westernized notion of karma; what goes around, comes back around. When we have been unjustly treated, it is comforting to think that, some way, somehow the perpetrator will get his/her comeuppance. However, when it happened to me, I was shocked that what went around came back around fast enough to bite me in the... er, thumb, instantaneously.

I don't always believe in karma. Our friend was attacked here in Sydney two weeks ago by two young men who he had never met. They didn't want his laptop, nor did they want his money or credit cards; they just wanted to beat him up. This was terrifying to Mickey and me and all of our friends. Our friend hadn't provoked these guys, not with words nor with flashy clothes hinting at wealth. It happened in an ordinary neighborhood, in the middle of the day, near a train station. If it happened to him, our gentle yet strong friend, then it could happen to any of us.

It is indeed scary and terribly unfair that our universe doesn't operate according to karmic law. Those two guys physically hurt our friend, violated his sense of safety and ran away. Thankfully, justice stepped in for karma (or was it karma in the guise of justice?) and the police arrested one of the assailants the day after the attack. Our friend's blood was still on his shoes when they picked him up. Our friend identified this punk at the police station and the detectives were fairly confident that he'll be put away for a while.

Our friend's bruises have healed and he somehow manages to see the bright side of this dark day. "At least I still have my teeth," he said with a smile. Soon, the bruise under my thumb nail will fade too, but I hope I will have learned a lesson before it does. You can't explain certain acts of violence or tragedy; life is unfair. However, when you have the opportunity to be compassionate, generous and patient, you'll be better off if you take it.

1 comment:

Leah H. said...

Suddenly acts of unprovoked violence are really frightening. The former VP of Think College Now got her head bashed in by someone who could have just taken her purse and ran. Our building and classrooms were broken into last week (although nothing was really taken). It is a lot easier to believe in karma, or that things happen for a reason, because if they don't, it opens a door for something horrible to happen to you or someone you love. Still, there are usually enough good things to make it worthwhile (humm... delicious ice cream).