Meeting on a train

A young guy is sitting on a train opposite a wealthy looking older man, evidently a stray from the First Class section, which has been closed off for some reason. They are the only ones in the carriage and, after a while, the young man asks what time it is, but the older fellow just stares out of the window. The young man has heard the other man speak to the guard, so he knows the man is neither stone deaf nor dumb. He asks again, a little more loudly. You can almost hear, above the clickity-clack of the train, the ticking of the large, half-visible gold Rolex amidst thick but greying wrist hair, but the older man somehow manages to avoid his travelling companion’s eye and continues to ignore him. Eventually, the young man says very loudly, PLEASE! I ONLY WANT TO KNOW THE TIME!

The older man finally looks straight at him. “Look he says firmly, in heavily accented English, let me tell you something. You ask me the time and you know I have a watch and I don’t speak to you. Why? Because I am naturally friendly and I know this. I am naturally friendly and inquisitive and generous and, in any other circumstance, I would follow the traditions of my own country, which command me to be friendly and generous and also politely inquisitive. But today, if I tell you the time, what happens? We begin to talk. I tell you all about myself and you tell me all about yourself. We swap jokes, opinions, ideas, the way people do on trains. And then we get to our stop and we get out and I offer you a lift, because I know myself and I know that I am naturally generous and my tradition is generous. And you, being young, will take advantage and accept my offer of a little hospitality at my house. Why not? I am rich and you are poor, so why not? You will meet my daughter, my lovely daughter. She is as beautiful as I am ugly. You are handsome and she will like you and you will talk and you will get on and one thing will lead to another and, the next thing I know, you will come to me and tell me you are moving in together.

Now, I have to tell you that I really don’t want my beautiful daughter getting mixed up with someone who can’t afford a watch!’

from Transforming Tales by Rob Parkinson

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