I was in Paris between meetings and had had just enough time to gulp a salad and a mediocre glass of Bordeaux before crossing the city by metro.
You know, one those elevated trains that go right through it, past the Eiffel Tower and over the Seine, allowing you sneaky glimpses into mansard flats. Try it some time.
An old mate of mine was en ville too with a party of tourists so I called to say hi. 'Same old stuff, mate. Just dragging my sorry ass round town with 40 needy Americans'.
Jeepers, it sounded dire. 'So what you up to?' I thought about my day so far, starting in a dreary, impersonal hotel near the Opera with a brief breakfast meeting, and then the slightly complex presentations we'd done with a few investors, and groaned inwardly at the sheer bottomless pit that is what we call 'international finance'. Was I really doomed to talk about capital structures, Basle 3 and Tier 1 ratios till the end of my days? Yeah, we were all in Paris doing our thing.
I'd just ended the call as we zoomed into a tunnel when I heard the unmistakeable twang of a steel guitar, and the wail of a blues harp. A rangey guy with a faded Stars and Bars headscarf, withered drug-addled features, and lank grey hair was singing the blues with an apologetic smile. His voice was shot years ago, but he sure could play. Several of my fellow passengers were thumping their feet to his steady rhythm. You get a lot of street music on the Metro.
When he stopped and came round proffering a bashed up tin, I sneakily stuck a note in there and his face lit up. I wasn't going to say anything but he remarked: "Thanks dude' with such a big grin that I replied with a heartfelt 'rock on'. He was already stepping off the carriage through the double doors when he waved the peace sign, peering at me through the window, yelling: 'Rock on indeed!' with a southern States drawl. I felt a prickle of embarrassment as people gawped at me, but who cares - at least I appeared to have made him happy.
I sat there thinking about it. We spend way too much time agonising over how to make a buck and survive, when there are far tougher battles going on all around us. My friend the tour guide has a simple philosophy that we self-obsessed market folk should ponder - It doesn't really matter what you do - or earn - as long as you do one thing every day to help someone else along. Rock on indeed!