Following a meeting in downtown Philadelphia one Monday evening last November, I decided to make the twenty minute walk back to my hotel across Centre City (as they call it) rather than catching a cab. I hadn’t been to Philly before and although it was by now 9.00pm I would enjoy the stroll through this historic city.
My route took me through an area undergoing a serious amount of construction work with high fences and closed sidewalks and as I approached the top of a darkened street I could see a group of people hanging around in leather jackets with some sort of embroidered insignia on the back. Oh dear, the Jets are in town… or the T-Birds. Another group sat on the floor or stood forlornly against a wall. What was happening here? My mind started to race. The majority of my money and‘spare’ credit card were securely locked in the hotel safe along with my passport so damage, other than physical, would be minimal. Hmm, not very reassuring!
There were a few cars around but no other pedestrians that I could see, so essentially I was on my own. I’ve been to several U.S. cities over the years and have rarely felt uncomfortable, but this was definitely one instance. I arrived at the scene attempting to be inconspicuous, difficult as I was the only person around, but fortunately nobody seemed to pay any attention to me. The dozen-strong leather-clad gang included men and women both young and old and as they went about their business I was finally able to read the insignia on the back of their aggressive-looking leather jackets – they were a Christian organisation providing soup to those sleeping rough on the streets of Philadelphia! I felt relieved and ashamed in equal measures. These kind-hearted volunteers were giving up their evenings to care for the less fortunate of their city.
There are two morals to this story – things are rarely as bad as they seem; and never judge anyone until you get to know them.
Andrew Turner, MD of Langtec Ltd, Altham
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