Wearing a business suit and putting on a lanyard at the bottom of which dangles a security pass extending to me complete airport access gives me another privilege too, an odd and unexpected social permission: to look at people . The assumption on the part of those who see me is that I must be a person of some authority, that I have the right, perhaps the duty, to let my gaze linger if I wish, to carefully consider what I see.
And I do. I look at people. Far more than I ever do when I am a traveler myself, I pay attention to those I see, I read their faces, see their emotions, sense their weariness and anxiety, their tears and confusion.
Today I saw a woman whose face was badly scarred and whose manner told me she had suffered much for it. She seemed to make herself smaller, following an erratic path as she repeatedly shrank from oncoming passers by.
When she saw me looking at her, knew that I had seen her features yet did not shy away from holding her gaze, she was visibly strengthened by the encounter, pulling herself up to her true height.
In Peterhead we saw a house whose uneven roof tiles told a story.
During the war the airplanes came one evening to bomb the harbour. They missed their target, the bombs falling several hundred metres up the hill in the centre of town. At that moment a children’s piano recital was being held in one of the homes. The house took a direct hit, the piano flying over the roofs of an adjoining row of houses.
All the children died, but one. Moments before the bomb exploded the young lad was sent to another room for misbehaving.
We wondered at the untold story, of a life lived under the weight of such grace.
Coming home, boarding the train, I slowed to fall into step behind a blind woman with a guide dog leading the way. As we proceeded slowly down the aisle, low and behold, another blind woman was seated up ahead with an almost identical dog.
The dog still leading the way saw this too and, reaching the other dog, decided that his person had gone far enough, choosing for her an empty seat directly across the aisle. So now the dogs were nose to nose, greeting each other.
The woman who was seated first noticed her dog acting strangely and said something to him. The woman seated second recognized her voice and said, “Oh, is that you Jane?”. And then they had a good chuckle and started off on a conversation.
Obviously the dogs were friends too.