An evening in Venice

Whoever said that there are very few good people left in this world, probably hasn’t done much good himself. For some insane reason, I do believe in “what goes around, comes around”. May be its nature’s flawed implementation of Newton’s “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction” .. I will never know.
Anyway, I was in Venice a couple of weeks back. The reason I brought up the topic of good people is because I encountered a truly generous soul while I was there. After a hectic day that involved lots of last minute running around, we had finally caught the train from Rome to Venice and the only task left for the remainder of the day was to check-in to the hotel. As it turned out, the hotel was not really in Venice proper and we had to take a long-ish train ride to get to the Preganziol station. This was the closest train station from the hotel and once we got there, finally at 9:30 in the chilly night, we realized that we had no idea how to get to the hotel from there. It is hard enough to find English speaking people in Venice, and we did not have very high expectations when I asked the only person present at the train station about how to get to the address provided. To this day, I have no idea what he said, but decoding his body language I can safely assume that he had no idea about this address. So we stood outside the deserted station, hoping that we could find someone who speaks English who could tell us where to head to.
I was getting desperate after waiting for about 30 minutes, and a part of me was also infuriated with myself for not carrying GPS or atleast a print out of google-maps. How could I be so careless? A guy in mid-30s appeared almost out of nowhere and he seemed to be walking towards us. I had not seen a single person passing that street in the past 30 minutes, so this guy was almost Sachin-sent for me. I asked him if he spoke English and to my utter surprise he answered in British accented english – “Yes, I do”. I asked him for the address, and he said he knew where it was. His next line surprised me even more “I can take you there, if you want”.
Frankly, I had no other option but to follow him. I could stay there waiting for someone else, but what were the chances that he/she could speak English? This guy, suited up in almost flawless manner, had strange shoes – running shoes. Also, there was a big water stain mark all over the front of his suit. I asked him “Didnt you have to go to the train station?” and he said “It’s ok, there will be another train in 30 minutes”. I didnt know how to tell him to just tell us the directions; it seemed awfully rude in the face of such generosity. And lets be clear, he didnt look like he could rob us or anything.
So, we followed him. He was straightforward enough to tell us that there is a direct road that leads to the hotel, but that road is an expressway with no sidewalk. Since we were carrying some luggage, it would not be safe at this time with cars zooming at over 100 kmph. He also told us that he would be taking us through some small, not-so-well-lit roads, which might seem shady, but were completely safe as it was completely a residential area.
We walked through the small narrow streets, through pebble-lined pavements, took turns where walking straight seemed advisable, walked straight where turns seemed inviting. All the while, I was surprised at how much trust I had put into this guy. Afterall , I didnt even know who he was. Heck, I didnt even know his name. He could cut me into pieces here and bury me somewhere around and no one would ever know. Of course, the mind imagines the wildest possibilities even as it tries to convince itself that nothing wrong could happen. We talked a little on the way. I was exhausted because of the time spent travelling and waiting and now dragging the heavy luggage. He chit chatted about his job and how he had moved to Venice just recently. He talked about his job as a waiter at a nearby restaurant, about how awful the pay was and how most of the money goes into rent in a place like Venice. I thought to myself that if I get to the hotel, may be I should give him some money. May be that is why he was doing this ‘favour’.
We finally reached the hotel from what seemed to be the longest route to get there. I was happy to see it all lighted up and shiny. Money well spent, I thought :). It was getting cold and late and we wanted to rush in as early as possible. I thanked our generous helper and started taking some money out of the wallet. He politely declined whatever we offered. We didnt know how else to thank him. Without his help we would have probably been stuck in the cold for another hour or may be more. Anyway, I offered the most heartfelt handshake and thanked him profoundly.
We went in, checked in, and asked the receptionist as to why the hotel was located in the middle of nowhere. She said that they catered mostly to people who travel by cars, so it was an OK deal for them. I told her that if it wasn’t for a kind stranger we would have never reached her hotel. Her eyes lit up in a way that I had never seen before. She asked if the kind stranger wore a suit, to which we replied affirmatively. She almost gasped as we told her that he dropped us to the gates. She ran outside and then walked back in , looking completely shaken up. We were perplexed, and had no idea as to what was causing this reaction.
The story was then narrated to us by the hotel owner who came in a few minutes later. The receptionist’s husband had died right in front of the hotel about 3 years back. A speeding car ran over him (remember the unsafe expressway ?? ) as he was going back to work after dropping her off for night duty. Over the past 3 years, the receptionist had heard the story of a kindly stranger dropping off first timers, by making them avoid the expressway, about five times. All five times, he came so close to the hotel door, but never saw his wife again. She never saw him again either, but only heard of him through the people he helped.



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5 responses to “An evening in Venice

  1. Great narration..

    Although a ghost story, there were hardly any spooks till the last paragraph, well written.

  2. whoa .. as i started reading .. i assumed it was a true narration … but turns out its a ghost story … or is it both? 😛

  3. @KD ,
    Am waiting for your short story book !!

    @Mythalez ,
    story is real .. the ghost wasn’t 🙂

  4. Ri@

    great story!! superb narration.

    When I started reading it , I didnt ssume that it end as story of a friendly ghost 🙂

  5. Wow! I can’t imagine which part of the story was made up 🙂 Nice narration.

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