Yesterday I stopped to buy lunch at a pay for pound buffet counter. It’s a serve yourself concept that allows the consumer to buy exactly how much of what he wants and pay for it by weight.
At the start of the line, consumers are required to put on disposable gloves to serve themselves. I took up two gloves in error, then offered one to the guy behind me in the line. He seemed shocked. “You from Trinidad.”
“Yes,” I responded.
“How you so kind?” he shot back. He went on to explain that he spent the entire morning at the Licensing office and got little assistance to register his car. I nodded and murmured my commiseration since I knew how challenging it could be to deal with a governmental office.
I turned my back on him and served my lunch. When I got to end of the buffet, the attendant weighed my food and told me the cost. My gloved friend exclaimed, “I will pay for her food”.
I turned to him and said, “No need for that.”
I felt anxious, nervous and confused by the offer, since I did not know the man from Adam. I was shaking and fumbling in my purse. He insisted and thrust his card forward. I was very embarrassed until the attendant said, “OK sir, you can pay for hers and mine as well.”
That comment eased my tension, I laughed and turned to the man and said “Thank You”. Then I speedily made my way to the door.
When I was safely in my car I said to myself “What world do I live in that I question a kind gesture? What is wrong with the man buying me lunch? (It was US$4) He did not ask for my number and he was not rude.”
I have told that story to both males and females and they have been shocked that I did not vociferously insist that he not buy me lunch, or that I did not return his money or that I accepted the lunch from him. Some wanted to know how he was dressed, if he looked “decent” and if he looked like he could afford it or not. Almost everyone thought that he had ulterior motives.
We have become so cynical, that each gesture has a motive. The people in the world have shown us so much ugly that we find it even amidst the beauty. When a perfect stranger offers a gesture in return for ours we become wary and scared.
I long for the day when a perfect stranger can give me a gift and I joyfully accept it without a shadow of a doubt.
How do you feel about the story? What would you have done?