The upheaval to daily life brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic and exacerbated from the current run of civil unrest can make it feel as if there is little hope for society.
For Tom Ross, owner of Tekwerks in San Fernando, even the simple act of buying a morning meal at a Starbucks he frequents had lumbered into a mammoth undertaking. “The epic line of cars streaming into the street at the local Starbucks drive-thru is testament to that, an exercise in frustration that takes the patience of Job to endure,” Ross said.
This particular day started out the same. But it didn’t end that way.
Ross was in the drive-thru line, listening to a podcast and working his phone. “There could have been a monster truck behind me and I would not have seen it,” he said. Finally his turn came to order. Ross spoke into the speaker. His voice was recognizable to the worker inside, so much so that he didn’t have to finish before she started preparing his Egg box and Venti drink for him.
And when Ross got ready to pay for his order, she told him he didn’t have to; it had already been done by the driver of the car in front of him.
“He said he knew you, and wanted to pay,” the worker told Ross.
“I took my little Egg box and Venti drink, and with a sort of stunned happiness I did not expect,” Ross said. “Who just bought my drink? Do I know them? The Starbucks people didn’t have a name. They mentioned it was a ‘he,’ which reduced my pool of possibles down about 50%, but I still could not imagine who. The car was black, but that’s all I got.
“I was totally unaware of who it was. I considered following the car and ambushing them, saying thanks, but after turning in the direction of the car, I decided not to. Why ruin it? Someone randomly paid for my drink. A kind of euphoric feeling came over me and I didn’t want to ruin it.”
A dab of old-fashioned thoughtfulness — that was all it took to lift Ross’ spirits from underground depths they were sinking into.
“For 75 days we all have been whipped into a panic — globally — our very lives threatened by an unseen, undetectable plague which can strike randomly with an arsenal of effects from the sniffles to blood disease, pneumonia, and death,” Ross said. “We have had to stop doing what human beings have been doing since we crawled out of the Stone Age: socialize, meet, hug, kiss, shake hands, high five, have lunch, talk, go for a drink.
“There I sat in my comfortable bubble, trying to ignore the world outside, when suddenly I got slammed by something nice. It was as jarring as a slap in the face. ‘The guy in front of you paid!!!’ Wow. It’s nothing, really, coffee and an egg. But it’s unexpected, an act of kindness without compensation, anonymous without the possibility of recognition.”
Ross said he will be “on a different track” the next time he goes for morning coffee. “I will wait in that aggravating line. I will listen to those long and annoying orders and, with a little smile on my face.
“And I will pay for the drink of the person behind me.”