Mr. Roberts was not a social kind of guy. His idea of a day well spent was planning out every minute, and not wasting time. He woke up, drank coffee, and ate two eggs on toast every morning while reading the newspaper. He went to work every morning at 7 AM and returned home at 6 PM. His schedule was fixed, and his life was good and peaceful.
Mr. Henry was quite the opposite. His jovial manner and hearty, frequent laugh made him an instant hit at every social gathering. He woke up late compared to Mr. Roberts. He went to work every weekday and returned early, enjoying his job. He had a good work-life balance, and his life was relaxing and fun.
Now, how these two, obviously opposite, people became acquainted is beyond me, but life comes with its surprises! I had come to hear of this story from an old friend of mine, and I know the main parts. I will retell everything as I remember it.
Mr. Roberts got out of the taxi and walked over to the platform. He wore a suit, as he always did. He walked up to the ticket window and looked at his silver watch. The two dials showed that the time was 5:30 PM. He asked the man on the other side of the ticket window for a one-way train ticket to London for the 6:30 PM train in his slightly quiet, careful voice. Upon receiving his ticket, he sat down on a bench and placed his briefcase next to him, as he always did, to ensure no one would bother him. Then, he pulled a book out of his briefcase and began to read.
After some time, Mr. Roberts looked at his watch again. It read 6:20 PM. He looked up, but saw no sign of a train on the platform. He shook his head as he thought how trains should always arrive early. Then again, he thought, no one these days seemed to value the importance of being early. There were a few people waiting for the train, but most were only just buying their tickets.
Once the train came in, Mr. Roberts went inside and took his seat, and then looked around at the other passengers beginning to trickle in. They seemed like a quiet bunch of people. Good, he thought. He might as well finish his book before arriving in London.
Just as the train began to move, a man caught Mr. Roberts’ eye. He seemed to be running after the train. He shook his head once again as the train came to a slow stop to allow the man to board. His face was red and unshaven, but he was smiling. His hair was rumpled, and his whole manner seemed disheveled. The man was not slim, and he wore a collared shirt and black pants. Mr. Roberts immediately disliked this man, as he valued dressing nicely and being calm and collected, no matter the situation. He hoped that the man was not the one who was supposed to sit right across from him.
However, sometimes people just get unlucky. Mr. Roberts watched with a hint of disappointment as the man walked up to the seat across of him and sat down.
“Hello! The name is Henry. How do you do?” Mr. Henry extended his hand towards Mr. Roberts with a friendly grin.
Mr. Roberts took his hand and forced a small smile. “Roberts. Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Henry.”
After breaking the handshake, Mr. Roberts almost instantly took up his reading again, wishing to avoid conversation. From past experience, he knew that people only needed a small opening before they started to talk, and Mr. Roberts had no desire to provide that opening.
Unfortunately, though, Mr. Henry saw this as a perfect opportunity to offer his opinion. “That book! Do you really like it that much, Mr. Roberts? I personally hated it. The author was too bold and stated his opinion much too frequently for me to have enjoyed the story.”
Mr. Roberts simply said, “Is that so?” and continued his reading. But, he had made a big mistake. Mr. Henry took this to mean that Mr. Roberts truly was interested in what he had to say, and continued on.
“Do you like to read, Mr. Roberts? I do very much. I read aloud to my daughters. They are such beautiful young girls, and so intelligent. My wife and I send them to a private school. Do you have children, Mr. Roberts?”
Mr. Roberts sighed and put his book down. “Yes, I enjoy reading. Clearly, you can see that, as I have been reading for the past 10 minutes. I don’t see why it was necessary for you to ask. I have 2 children. Are you satisfied now, Mr. Henry? I wish to read in peace.”
Mr. Henry looked slightly taken aback. He looked down, and then got up and walked down the aisle.
Mr. Roberts watched him go, wishing slightly that he hadn’t been quite so harsh. After thinking for a while, he picked up his book and continued to read. However, he couldn’t concentrate, and glanced up at Mr. Henry, who had just walked in. Then, he looked down once more, but after internalizing what he had just seen he looked up again at Mr. Henry, and saw a new man. He now wore a suit and looked clean, well-shaved, and altogether very much unlike Mr. Henry.
“Mr. Henry?” he asked tentatively.
“Hello, sir.” he replied, and Mr. Roberts immediately realized what had just happened.
Mr. Roberts smiled a little, and then slowly started laughing louder and louder. Soon, he was almost roaring with laughter, and tears were coming out of his eyes.
Mr. Henry looked upon this with disbelief and amazement. Very soon though, he also joined in.
Other passengers saw these two men laughing, and some men shook their heads as they looked upon this display of childishness and immaturity.
Mr. Roberts wiped his eyes and looked at Mr. Henry as he thought of how Mr. Henry had gone to the extent of pretending to be like him in order to make conversation.
Then, in a new voice, he asked Mr. Henry, “Where do you live?”
And Mr. Henry smiled and answered Mr. Roberts’ question.