Last night I made dinner for D and I and a couple that are friends of ours. While making Puttanesca, I opened the anchovies and decided that they were no good. I went around the corner to the market to get new ones, and got to do one of my favorite things ever, to help out someone for the best reason ever - no reason at all. See, there was this older black lady in line in front of me at the checkout counter. She was a bit on the heavy side, and you could tell from the way she was dressed that she didn't have a lot of money. Her overcoat was dirty and threaedbare in places, her sweater had stains on it and a couple of noticable holes near the waistband. She had her left hand full of items she was about to place on the conveyor belt, and with her right hand she was reaching down for a bag of charcoal on the bottom of her buggy. No sooner had I realized she was about to drop something when I all but dove in front of her to get the charcoal and put it on the conveyor belt for her. I got it and turned my head so that I was looking directly into her eyes, and gave her a great big smile. We locked eyes for a second before both of us moved to stand upright, and exchanged one of those deep-in-the-eye stares, the kind where no one is saying a word but you know there is an exchange of information going on. She smiled back and thanked me, and was seemingly astonished. I made small talk with her like we were dear old friends, explaining that there were still a few gentlemen left even if we were few and far between. She broke into another smile and agreed, adding a hearty "You got THAT right, TOO few!". As she was leaving I told her to have a great evening, and that it wasn't a suggestion but an order. She giggled softly to me, then left with another younger woman whom I didn't realize had been a present observer. The checkout lady rang up the tin of anchovies and asked me how I was doing. I replied with my usual "I'm great, what about you?" when she looked toward the door to the lady that was leaving and told me "You know, that was a really special, really nice thing you did just now. You could tell she doesn't get a lot of that." I looked her straight in the eye and said "No, not at all - what I just did was a decent thing to do." As I was leaving, the two ladies were still in the parking lot about two spaces in front of me. I unlocked the truck and was climbing in when I noticed the lady I'd helped pointing me out to someone sitting in the car she was getting into and I yelled to her to remember what I had said about having a great night, waved goodbye to her and left to go back to D's house and finish dinner.
It makes me sad that there just aren't enough people who are willing to just somehow get involved to make a difference where they can. I'm the guy that looks you in the eye when I'm talking to you. I'm the guy that eats just the salad and has the waiter box up my lunch so I can give it to the homeless guy waiting outside. I'm that guy who picks up the trash I find just lying around and puts it in the garbage. I'm that guy that will get in your face if I catch you behaving badly and beating up on someone*. I'm the guy that listens to you when you have something to say like it is the most important thing I've ever heard, even if it is completely trivial. I'm the guy that opens and holds doors for everyone everywhere I go. It doesn't even matter to me that every other time I do this there is invariably an endless stream of people coming in or out of the door like a clown car just pulled up or something. Everyone is just in such a big goddamned hurry these days that no one takes the time to be thoughtful, let alone grateful. I CHOOSE to be that guy who does those things, because I know just how lucky I am to have everything I have and I feel it is my responsibility to be that guy as gratitude for it. I was raised to be like that, with the notion that if you can help then it is your responsibility to help. So you see, my bleeding heart liberalism and staunch anticonservativism (if it ain't a word, then it is now) is because I put my money where my mouth is, and because I care.
*Last year, this venti sized asshole at Starbucks was loudly and rudely giving the counterperson grief because he was having to wait for his coffee, which clearly meant that the cure for cancer he was working on was going to have to wait. From across the store I yelled even louder (yes, to draw attention) to said asshole "Hey, asshole! Pipe the fuck down, if you can't wait for two more minutes for your coffee then fuck off home and have some there instead. You're ruining our Starbucks experience with this bullshit..." and made a broad, sweeping gesture to the other patrons now observing this confrontation. He got his coffee from a now beaming counterperson who was trying REALLY hard not to laugh, then left all sourfaced and embarrassed. As he was walking out, all eyes in the joint were shifting from him to me and there was even audible laughter. You can bet your ass HE never gets the employee discount on HIS purchase of coffee now, or that HE'S made to pay each time HE visits them again, the miserable bastid.