I usually tell this story as an entertaining incidence, but these are those unplanned, in between moments during your travels that actually give you the deepest insight into the local ethos that can be so much different than your own.
It was the November of 2006 and I was in Houston, Texas for an assignment. It was my penultimate day there and between me and a colleague we had to submit this huge report of the work done before we could take off our flight back home. That was a lot of work and we were sure stressed out. Around 8 in the evening we left office and decided to have our last dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant before going home to a working night. As luck would have it, the restaurant was full and there was an expected wait time of about 30 minutes. We looked at each other and decided to sit outside and wait. We did not want to miss our favorite dinner and anyway it would consume more time to find another restaurant in the vicinity.
As the waiting area was also full, we sat on the pavement outside, and without a second thought opened our respective laptops and started working. We really did not have a choice, for 30 minutes was too much of a time to be lost. After 15-20 minutes, my colleague got up to go to the washroom and now I had two laptops in my hand and I was actually using both of them as work involved cross referencing few documents. I realized a crazy looking man circling around me and trying to figure out what am I doing? His intruding gaze was irritating me, but in the interest of time I decided to ignore him. Since there were quite a few people around waiting to get in the restaurant I did not feel any threat from him. He kept moving around, trying to read my face and sometimes the laptop screens.
Finally I looked up with my irritated expression asking ‘What?’ Before I could utter a word, he asked me ‘ Are you a homeless person with two laptops?’ And my reflex action response was ‘No, I am a hungry person with lots of work’.
He did not get my answer instantly and I spoke two more sentences to explain him my situation and got back to my document. He was not convinced by my answer but he left me alone after that. Later when I thought about it I realized, It was one of those moments when I got to see my world from his perspective. Here I was sitting on a roadside pavement with two laptops and two backpacks in front of me, he was obviously confused if I am homeless, but then how can a homeless person afford to have two laptops. It had not even stuck me that sitting on pavement can be indication of being homeless. I am sure my work stressed expression would have added to required aura to the scene.