Relief. So, imagine how you would feel, when, as you sink into the darkness of despair, someone throws you a lifeline. Your phone has been found! And incredibly, we are happy to return it to you – just tell me where to find you!
A while ago, a visiting consultant flew into Entebbe Airport, and then took a taxi to the Kampala office. Along the way, she realised her phone was missing.
You know that sense of stone-cold fear and horror that seeps into your veins and interferes with your cardiac, respiratory and digestive functions all at once, so that you feel like you are throwing up and falling from a great height at the same time? That’s what she got.
Panicked, and suddenly isolated in a foreign country, she stammered out her loss to the driver. In our world today, the forfeiture of a phone is at par and synonymous with the ‘worst thing that ever happened to me’; a colossal bereavement because it deprives you of the company of everyone stored in your contacts in one decisive blow.
For most people, their phone is another body organ, externally situated, but nevertheless key to homeostasis and mental stability.
Anybody who has been violently separated from their phone suddenly, and against their will, especially in circumstances that involve deliberate sabotage on the part of another human, has experienced a mortal blow to the central nervous system akin to a stroke.
For days afterwards, they mumble incoherently and feel their way tentatively through a new world, minus the warm, cuddly blanket of the virtual universe full of familiar faces, voices, google and porn.
When that universe is snatched out of your hand, the grieving process is real; you will suffer disbelief, then rage, followed by a spell of pleading with the gods to spare you this one time – unlikely - then despair, and finally numb acceptance.
Many people are so broken by this experience, they take time off to lick their wounds and re-examine their relationship with the world.
So, imagine how you would feel, when, as you sink into the darkness of despair, someone throws you a lifeline. Your phone has been found! And incredibly, we are happy to return it to you – just tell me where to find you!
A few well-timed phone calls by the taxi driver had culminated into this happy turn of events. Turns out, the phone had slipped through the space between the seats on her flight in, and she disembarked without it. A janitor found the phone and reported to a superior, who, with a little sleuthing got in touch with the taxi driver, and she received the good news.
Arriving at the office, faint with relief, she – with the rest of us - pondered her unbelievable fortune, and immediately talk turned to whether, and how, one repays such an act of kindness.
Is a simple ‘thank you’ in words even appropriate in these incredible circumstances?
But must we cheapen everything with a cash payment?
The janitor could easily have sold the phone – an expensive model – for several hundred thousand shillings.
But that would make him a thief, profiting off another’s misfortune.
Well, so what? That is the way of the world now! Out of her hands, the phone became his to do with whatever he wanted.
He is a good soul, a rare species, to be honoured and blessed, not treated like a sly mendicant.
Well, how much money is worthy of his kindness?
Just enough to make him glad he did what he did, without making him sorry he hadn’t done more for himself.
Put a number on it. We couldn’t.
Common decency is priceless, precisely because it isn’t common anymore.