What Goes Around

AndromedaI like the idea of the circularity of the universe.

Not the fluffy concept that the universe gives back what you give out, but more that our atoms go on to become other things when we're finished using them.

Still at times it does seem as though the old phrase 'what goes around comes around' seems apt; in other words sometimes it does feel like the universe rewards you for good deeds.

"... sometimes it does feel like the universe rewards you for good deeds."

As my wife and I were out enjoying our weekly Date Day, I noticed a couple in distress at the Hung Hom train station. I overheard the lady say that she had been trying to withdraw money from an ATM for their train tickets when the machine ate her card. Moreover, when the gentleman heard of the problem the couple dashed back to the machine, leaving their luggage unattended.

They appeared to be tourists and the last thing they needed was for someone to run off with their stuff, so I kept an eye on it until they returned. When they did the fellow spotted me and came over to ask for help. Not only did they not have enough cash for the trip, but their credit cards didn't seem to work in the machine either (they weren't able to withdraw cash), and worse, the MTR didn't accept credit cards for payment (which is rather a stupid policy at a major train terminus).

At first I thought the best course of action would be to help them find a bank so that they could get a cash advance against their credit card, but then I found out that they weren't tourists but Australian business owners travelling to China to meet their suppliers, and only HK$33 short of what they needed to get to the border at Lo Wu.

· ƒ ·

Now a cynic might think this was an elaborate scam to bilk a sucker, but really, who would go to all that trouble? Thirty-three Hong Kong dollars is about US$4.25, and no one is going to concoct a story like that for what amounts to the price of a cup of coffee. So I just said I'd take care of it, and asked him to follow me to the ticket window where I purchased two tickets. The young man handed me the cash he had in hand, and then gave me his business card and told me that the next time he was in Hong Kong he would buy us dinner.

"... give away $33, get back a hundy."

I said that wasn't necessary, but he insisted, and even asked me to e-mail him so he could get in touch with me later. Again, no one would do all of that if they were dishonest. So off they went, and we continued on our way, and I felt good for helping them out of a jam.

Here's the weird part: later in the afternoon, as we were returning on the ferry and about to dock, I found a HK$100 bill on a seat. It must have fallen out of someone's pocket, but as I didn't know who had been sitting there I couldn't track down the person to return it. And if I hadn't picked it up someone else surely would have.

It was a coincidence of course, but it also felt a bit like a dividend, in triplicate: give away $33, get back a hundy. Naturally I felt bad for the person who lost the money, because that always sucks. I joked to my wife that maybe the person that lost it had obtained it dishonestly and that this was cosmic payback, but truly I don't believe the universe works like that. If it did everyone would be a lot nicer to one another because retribution for offensive behaviour would be swift and painful.

So although it appeared as though helping folks pays, in reality it already had (good vibes and all that); the hundy was merely an unexpected bonus. Since I came out ahead on the day, maybe I can give some of it to charity, to keep the cycle going.

It wouldn't be the worst idea in the universe.

August 6, 2011

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