The Honorable Mr. Humphrey

“The train is late.”
“The damn train is always late.”

Mr. Humphrey, stood on the edge of the platform peering into the emptiness of the train tunnel, hoping to see two growing headlights of the oncoming train. The dark tunnel seemed to go on forever. He took a step back and looked at his watch. To an observer it would seem that Mr. Humphrey was a busy man in a rush. He wasn’t. But, he acted as if he was, perhaps in subconscious mimicry of his fellow subway riders.

“So unreliable,” Mr. Humphrey whispered to himself. He took another look at his watch, giving the train a few seconds to materialize, and then headed for the exit.

Mr. Humphrey, emerged from the train station and onto a Manhattan street. The air was dry and chilly. The sidewalk was animated with people on their way home. Storefronts were shuttering for the evening and Mr. Humphrey could see the staff inside doing their final clean up duties. He looked at his watch, and headed south in the direction of his home. There was no rush.

It had been a good week, on the personal finances front. After working for 10 years in the corporate offices of a midsize shipping company, Mr. Humphrey was promoted to Senior Associate, a title that with it brought a significant jump in salary and the potential of a year end bonus. Mr. Humphrey, figured he’d put a third of the increase into a retirement fund, a third into diversified investments, and a third he would spend on himself, although he still didn’t know how. There was no one else to splurge on. No, wife or kids, no one he could spoil with his increased buying power.

For as far as he could remember Mr. Humphrey, had done the right thing. He was model human being in the eyes of the American socioeconomic structure. In lower school, he would often hear the parents of the kids he had gotten to know, say ”you should be more like your friend here, he is going to be someone one day.” After school there was college, a business degree, internships , corporate positions with respectable titles, a retirement account. Mr. Humphrey had done the right things.

He stopped at a bakery for a chocolate chip muffin. There was an empty table next to a family with two small children fighting over the last cookie. Mr. Humphrey looked at his watch. “To go please.” The middle-aged women behind the counter handed him the brown bag and the change from his purchase. Mr. Humphrey deposited it into the tips jar. The women’s tip jar was no match for his retirement account, and he hoped to alleviate her situation with this contribution. He always did the right thing.

Back on the street, Mr. Humphrey continued his journey. On some blocks he would pass homeless people holding paper cups and begging for change. He had no concern for their situation. Unlike the middle-age woman behind the bakery counter, who probably did not do the right things in her early years, but at least made an effort to improve on her condition now, these individuals clearly did not make the right choices at any point in their lives, and so, logic dictated, did not deserve charity.

When he was an intern at the company where he now held the position of Senior Associate, Mr. Humphrey, eager to do the right thing, was glad to help the full time staff in any way possible. On occasion, he helped a recently hired young lady with tasks that were a bit challenging for her, but were quite elementary for him. Later, an attraction formed between the two and after work they would grab a drink or a desert at a local café. Then, the day he was waiting for finally arrived. Mr. Humphrey, was offered a full time position at the company. Upon reviewing the hiring documents one paragraph caught his attention. Stated in it was a policy that strictly forbade any romantic involvement between company employees. Once again he had to do the right thing. So, Mr. Humphrey, stopped assisting the young lady with her tasks, and soon after ignored her altogether. This caused the young lady much confusion, and so, between not getting any of his help, and the sudden emotional detachment of her onetime friend, the young lady’s performance at work suffered and she was subsequently fired. This was not the intended consequence of his actions but, Mr. Humphrey concluded, that the young lady probably never had the necessary qualities to be employed there in the first place and only lasted that long because of his help. All in all, the outcome was for the best.

One block from his apartment building Mr. Humphrey stopped off at a supermarket. Feeling a bit guilty about the sugar and fat content of his recently finished muffin Mr. Humphrey, resolved to make only healthy food purchases. Into his shopping basket went chicken breast, whole grain bread, skim milk, and several protein bars. In the fruit and vegetable isle he picked out an avocado and a bag of lettuce.

Then, a few yards in front of him, next to the apples, he spotted an elderly lady who lived in his building. She was a pleasant woman, and from what he recalled a bit lonely, since whenever he ran into her in the elevator or building lobby she would go on and on about her son who now lived in Connecticut and the grandchildren she barely ever saw. He figured the apples would have to wait for another time. As much as he liked to be helpful Mr. Humphrey, didn’t want to get involved in one of her conversations or the prospect of the two of them walking to the building together. Before there was any chance of being spotted, he quickly turned the corner, walked across the store, paid, and left.

As he walked home Mr. Humphrey, remembered the invitation to his boss’s engagement party. He had separated from his first wife the previous year and a short time later fell in love with an receptionist at the company. A week ago they got engaged, and she resigned from her position. Mr. Humphrey respected that they didn’t want to violate company policy. Before going into his building Mr. Humphrey, stopped off at a wine store. He wanted to pick out an expensive bottle of fine red wine. He knew that it would make a an excellent gift for the occasion. Mr. Humphrey, always did the right thing.

The End

1 comment about this story Feed