I was smiling to myself as I strode out of the train station towards work. But I slowed to a stop as a stocky young man who’d been ambling towards me hailed me.
‘Excuse me,’ he said. ‘Could you help me out with some change so I can catch a train home to Victoria Point?’
‘How about I buy you a ticket?’ I asked. I began walking with him back towards the ticket vending machine. I explained, ‘I’m hesitant to give anyone cash, because I don’t know what they’ll do with it.’ I was being polite. What I really meant was ‘There’s no way I’m going to give cash to a stranger in the city.’
It was some way back to the ticket machine, and he was walking considerably more slowly than my usual pace. I tried to engage him in conversation.
‘So what have you been doing here in the city?’
‘Catching up with a friend’, he replied. That might have been true. I wondered if he’d thought of asking his friend for change before setting out for the train station.
We walked together for a few more seconds before he broke the silence.
‘Or you could top up my go card. It’s cheaper that way… My go card’s on negative at the moment.’ He opened his wallet and started rifling through it as we walked. ‘It should be a concession one, but for some reason it’s not… Because I have a concession card… I can’t find my go card… Oh, here it is.’
We were getting closer to the ticket machine. I asked, ‘What was your name?’
‘I’m Nick,’ he replied.
‘I’m Josh,’ I said.
We reached the ticket machine. I took the go card from him and followed the prompts on the machine’s screen to top it up.
‘The trip home’s eight dollars,’ he said, ‘so you could put ten dollars on it.’ The machine only allowed adding value in increments of five dollars.
‘How about I put twenty dollars on there so you have a bit extra?’ I asked, as I selected that option and fed some cash into the machine.
‘Wow, thank-you!’ he said as I handed the card back to him. ‘You’re a goddess!’
He realised what he’d said and stumbled to correct himself. ‘No, you’re not a… Not goddess, you’re not a woman.’ I laughed, and clapped him on the shoulder.
‘Have a great day!’ I said, and I shook his hand. As I turned to resume my trip to work, I was still smiling at his choice of words.
It was a cheerful start to my day.