I was waiting for a bus into work today when a guy approached me. I'd see him from the corner of my eye. He'd crossed the road and done an almost comical imitation of Robin, from the 1960's edition of Batman. That weird stance that Robin always took when Batman would say "Stand back Robin". Anyway, he'd crossed the road... or got half way before he had to "stand back".
So this guy approached me. He mumbled something about getting kicked off a bus for asking for a light. This concerns me a little too given that his next question was for a cigarette. There he was on a bus asking for a light and, let's face it, a cigarette is probably the better evil here... but given that he didn't have any, it seemed a little bit strange.
So there we go. He asks for a cigarette. I'm doing my best not to engage him. He seems horribly indignant when I in the negative to his request. "I'm tā whenua" he says. (to those not in the know, it means "I'm of this land").
I can't help but feel a sense of discomfort with this. I consider myself to be of this land too - not because of sense of ownership, but rather, it's the only home I've ever known.
Another guy comes and sits on the other side of me. He seems to have come from the same direction as the first guy. I start to get a little nervous about this whole thing.
Anyway, after saying no several more times, he starts to take off his jacket and hand it to his friend. And his bag. I'm sitting there trying to play it cool. He's not gearing up to hit me.. is he? Turns out he was just going off to the toilet.
Anyway, so I turn to his friend and say "hi". I'm figuring if this other guy is going to hit me, it'd be best to be on friendly terms with his friend. In a South African drawl, he says "He's tā whenua. How would you feel if someone came to your land?".
Again, kind of redundant.
Anyway, long story short, this South African guy says to me, "he just doesn't know how to live on the outside"...
35 years. I played dumb and asked what he went away for. Given that this is New Zealand and we have short sentences, 35 years could only mean murder.
I'm wondering at this stage whether I should be concerned for my safety. I mean, his friend was still there which meant that after absolving his bowels (do bowels feel guilt?) there's a fairly good chance that this guy would be coming back.
So I'm playing it cool - I'm just reading my book. Nothing to see here. I'm also scared as all hell.
So the lesson of the story? Smoking potentially gets you killed... Crap lesson I know.