I have been staying in this guesthouse here in Malate, Manila for over a month now. Most of my dorm-mates are elderly travelers making me feel like I am preparing for my later years in a nursing home. There are seven double decks in our room and the one occupying the upper bed next to my bed is a 67 year old Norwegian.
A couple of days ago, I was at the lounge almost the entire day updating my blog site. I also had to inspect the site’s appearance on my mobile device again and again. When my phone’s battery was almost empty, I went to the dorm room to get my charger. The cable was there right on the bed but I did not see the adapter. So I lifted my rumpled sheet to check if it was there. Then looked under the pillow, under the bed, and on the shelf. The adapter had vanished.
I noticed the old Norwegian man was using his phone while it was connected to the power outlet. Plugged to the wall socket was a white adapter with a pale round-to-flat converter. It looked exactly like my charger. So I pretended to fold my blanket then sidled toward his bed to examine the plug closely. There I became absolutely certain, it was my missing adapter!
Suddenly it felt like the ceiling fan was blowing air of indignation. I was just right here next to him flipping this bed and he didn’t even care to ask what was the matter. “How can this old man stay quiet while I was obviously looking for an item he took from my bed without my permission?” I turned off the noisy fan then went to ask him impudently, “did you borrow my plug?” As if surprised, he replied, “which plug?” I said, “that one,” pointing to the adapter on the wall socket.
“Oh, this is my plug,” he answered back.
Then I was exasperated. “But it looks exactly like my plug! That is an original iPhone adapter and it has pale white converter attached to it,” I said sternly. I needed to get it back, I would not let an old man steal my plug.
He suggested that I should also look for it in other places. I might have taken it somewhere else and misplaced it. Or may be I should go to the reception to complain about my missing charger. The staff might be able to help me find it. He then said that “stealing is very common in guesthouses, there are people coming and going and casually taking other guests’ personal items. And they steal anything.”
“Yeah,” I said assertively, “they do! I have lost toothpaste, shampoo, razor several times already. In my dorm in Kuala Lumpur, my female roommate put the hostel’s pillow in her luggage. There are thieves everywhere!”
Shortly, I went to the reception to report what happened. When I got back to the room, the old Norwegian man asked me if my charger was old or new. He explained that an old adapter would get warm easily and when plugged for hours would get hot just like his adapter at the moment. Then he let me examine his adapter pointing to the scratch and an identifying mark in black ink. In my thought, “oh my god, I can’t believe this salamabits wants to own my adapter now. He deceitfully led me to leave the room so he would have enough time to scratch the surface and put some markings on it.”
Realizing that I would never get it back, I retreated feeling frustrated being outwitted by an old man.
Later in the evening, while I was working on my laptop, he sat across my table and asked me what was my job. After hearing my answer he began talking about his work and his life back in Oslo. Why would I care to listen to this man who stole my adapter.
He just kept talking. I could not concentrate on my work so I hesitantly directed my attention to him.
He continued his narration.
His father became ill several years ago. At that time, he was in the middle of a messed life. Being the only child, he had to take care of him and had to shoulder the medical expenses all by himself to the point of scraping off anything of value at the house to turn into money. He asked God every day to ease his financial struggle for his father’s sake. All his messages to the high heaven were seen but he didn’t get a reply. He was already losing hope until one day he smashed into luck. He won a huge amount in a betting game.
Few days after he received the winning proceeds, his beloved father passed away.
Driven by grief, he ran away from Oslo, used the money to travel the world and ended up being captivated by the charm of Philippine Islands. He settled in Palawan with a local girl. The relationship did not work but he was able to acquire legal status to remain and do business in the Philippines. For many years, he had been running away from regret. He resumed a purposeful life in this country. “I have no life anywhere else but here, this is where I will see the last sunset. I am an old man. You know, I may have spent most of my money, but I am getting by and I still have enough supply to last for the rest of my life. I don’t need to steal a charger.”
I looked at him in the eyes and sensed so much sadness lurking inside. Underneath his wrinkled skin, I thought, “this man is torn deep down. He has been through hard times and if my adapter gives him some kind of happiness, he can keep it.”
Two days ago I went home to Valenzuela to do my weekly laundry. As I unpacked my knapsack, I was surprised to find something in my dirty clothes. Voila! My adapter was back! No scar, no ink.
When I was back at the guesthouse yesterday, I immediately went to see the old man. He was standing at the balcony beside the lounge. While still feeling embarrassed, I said “hey, I found my adapter, I forgot to take it out my bag the last time. It was stupid to have assumed you took it. So discourteous.” Then I proceeded to reason myself out, “This whole blogging thing is draining me. I put so much time and effort and I am not seeing any result. I am running out of resources and I have nothing to scrape off for cash in case I fail. And I’m feeling a little bit hopeless now.”
He shook his head then said calmly, “Nah, it’s nothing, what you did was pretty normal, we all act like that all the time.” He then went on, “we lose hope all the time too, not knowing that it is actually limitless. Just like the battery of your phone, you can recharge hope as well. There is an Ultimate Outlet that gives you free refill. All you need to do is turn yourself in, then you are fully charged again. No need for an adapter.”
“I don’t get your point,” I said. “Even fully charged with hope if you are doomed to fail, you’d fail.”
“After you fail, refill! You can always resume your life with a newly recharged you. There is so much to life that just blogging. Go out there, get yourself someone to love or reconnect with the ones you already love. You refill your hope for happiness not for riches.”
I nodded in approval while looking at his brightened face. I realized that all along I was wrong about this old man. Yes he is old, but not dejected. Then we both looked outside to observe the graying sky above Manila Bay .