Monday, 14 December 2009

Getting things in perspective

I was not a happy person yesterday. The wireless router that has, for several years provided top-notch quality broadband Internet to a number of devices dotted around chez Fatboyfat decided to go on the blink.

No amount of resetting, twiddling with settings or uttered oaths would get the thing to work. The laptop could see the router. The two would communicate at one level, the electronic equivalent of that raised eyebrows thing you do when you pass someone you think you know in the corridor at work. But actually providing any Internet feed was a no-no.

My router would no longer route. Wirelessly or otherwise.

And so last night found me doing any number of things I understand people are prone to do when they don't have unlimited mobile access to the most extensive collection of human thought and emotion ever gathered together. I read a book. I watched some TV.

Nice, but I can't see them catching on as pastimes. I was, in Katie's words, a "grumpy bugger".

Not being at work today I fired up my wired cable connection. A static desktop computer connected to a box on the wall. I believe this is how Shakespeare accessed his Yahoo account. I did a bit of searching around and then hurried out to PC World to get a new router.

On my way back I popped into Solihull to get a couple of things. It was when I was returning to the car park that it happened.

A young chap, I'd say in his early twenties, was sitting on the floor, propped up against the wall. And he was asking passers-by for spare change. Nothing too unusual in that, I suppose. It's a sad fact that we see this situation playing out in cities and towns all the time. I muttered "No thanks" and hurried on, avoiding eye contact.

Whatever might happen to someone that leads them having to sit on a street, begging for change? And to do this in full view of the most conspicuous capital consumption, too. XBox 360s selling like hot cakes. People rushing around buying daft secret Santa presents - for work colleagues they don't really know - that'll be in the bin on December 26th. The German beer stand selling wheatbeer at £3.50 per pint.

But then it occurred to me. I've spent the previous 24 hours feeling hard-done-by simply because one electronic gadget in my house wasn't talking to another one. But I'm warm, well-fed and have a (mainly) loving wife to go home to that night. I do things that I enjoy for people I trust, and get paid to do them. I have friends that make me laugh and don't judge me.

I don't know if he was genuine or not, our gentleman beggar. And in any case, define 'genuine'? What events must unfold to lead you to be needing to ask strangers for change on the street?

So I went back. I didn't have much. But I shared it with him. And when I got home I looked at the overflowing wardrobe in the spare room. Those things I bought and haven't worn in ages. I filled a bag and took it to the charity shop. And then I came home again and got the various bits of electronics to talk to each other. Which is, I think, where we came in.

I know I can do grumpy cynicism with the best of them. But a bit of blessings-counting, once in a while, can do a soul the world of good.


Country Girl said...

Once upon a time my eight-year-old and I, on the way to meet husband & friends for TexMex, passed a guy sitting in a wheelchair on the side of the road, in army fatigues, with a sign asking for help. He had no legs from the knee down. I went to the ATM and got $20 and drove back to give it to him. My friends DOGGED me...they said he'd probably never been in the service & if he had, he had benefits. They said a Mercedes probably picked him up in the afternoon. They said a whole bunch of stuff, but he still had no legs.

emma said...

I've had some modest poverty thrust upon me thanks to the financial crisis. No, I'm not begging and I still have a functioning router, but I am mourning luxuries like cheese, a warm house and being worry free. I'd love to be righteous and wax lyrical about frugality but at christmastime it is truly humiliating not being able to buy decent thankyou gifts for those you love. And how quickly people forget what it's like - it's painful repeating 'no I can't go skiing with you' & 'I can't just buy another one'. Still, I'm not begging (yet), and I have new perspective, so I still have blessings to count. Brrrrr.... and the router is quite warm when you put in under your jumper...


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