THE WAY I SEE IT #12 : By Darren Murphy

editorial image

NEVER judge a book by its cover, most of us have heard the saying before, but how many of us actually abide by this statement? My guess is not many, but hey that’s just my opinion.

People tend to pass judgement for a whole host of reasons, whether it be, as fickle as a person’s appearance to as defining as someone’s personality. I’ve always considered myself to be a tolerant person and have never considered myself judgemental . . . until now.

I frequently travel by rail to and from Glasgow; the train is a great place to meet people from all walks of life. Of course, I was told as a youngster never to talk to strangers but I think I’m old enough now to decide who I can and cannot converse with!

As recently as last Friday I was making this journey, and after finding myself a seat on the train I began to relax and drink my overpriced latte I had just bought from the station café. Relaxing wasn’t going to be easy, though, as only a couple of seats in front of me was the loudest man in Britain. Dread began to filter through my veins, how could I possibly enjoy the journey and read my book in peace.

As the train began to move there was no sign that this man was going to let up, in fact the cans of Stella sitting he was proudly accumulating on the table only suggested things would get worse. There was me praying this man dressed in full military clothing would have some narcoleptic disorder and would soon be fast asleep.

I’ve not figured out whether I was being nosy or whether the entire cabin could hear, but I soon found myself listening to the conversation this nightmare passenger was having with the man sat next to him. It turned out “Big Jim” as he called himself, was a bit of a comedian and soon I found myself laughing away at his list of jokes. Maybe my view of Big Jim was beginning to change a little, or maybe I just hadn’t been lenient enough.

Twenty minutes into the journey I found myself sitting at the same table as Jim and his companion. There I was a sitting duck at risk of the other passengers now judging me as quickly as I had initially judged Big Jim. Conversation soon began to flow at the table and any other passengers could have been forgiven for thinking Jim and I had known each other a long time. He turned out to be quite a character – an army medic soon to be deployed to Afghanistan and heading home to Glasgow for a farewell party.

Now it’s not every day a complete stranger makes an impact on your life but big Jim did just that. I need to tell you a little more about him for you to understand why. Jim became a medic because he had accidently stumbled across a stab victim in his youth. The man had been stabbed in the thigh and although Jim had tried in vain to save the victim he died from his wound. This led Jim to educate himself about the human body, bemused someone could die from a stab wound to the thigh. He worked as a paramedic in Glasgow until deciding the army would be a good place for him to use his skills. Now he was heading for his first stint in a serious conflict zone. He openly admitted being fearful of this journey but his desire to help others motivated him.

I learned three valuable lessons from Jim, and I hope anyone who reads this will take them on board. The first being, never judge a book by its cover. You simply can’t judge someone without knowing a bit about them. Secondly, appreciate the small things in life; in fact appreciate life in general. Number three was rather more practical than philosophical as he taught me how to tie a tourniquet on the train. Never know when that might come in handy.

As we departed the train and began to head in different directions I wished Jim a safe trip and we shook hands. “It’s not the trip I’m worried about,” he replied. “I’ll probably give more first aid at my farewell party, the family are mental.”