Wherein I Learn The Road to Heaven Is Paved With Coffee [Hyperbolic Tendencies]
As happens when any society loses its homogeneity, the schism between those who act on Faith and those who Doubt gets thrown into high relief. Ultimately, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth said society winds up facing the one Final Question:
Can people treat one another with compassion and kindness without “divine” order?
A recent harrowing incident brought me face to face with the question:
MONDAY, MARCH 7, 2011
Wake with a start, realize I could be late for an 8:00 meeting. Work furiously for forty-five minutes on rewriting chapter 14 of my new novel. Shower, get dressed.
Pull into Starbucks drive-through lane where I can pay through my phone, a monstrously cool app. (Another column, another day.)
Order medium coffee, two pumps of classic syrup, soymilk. Join line of cars inching towards the cashier window.
Notice a new Honda Insight in front of me. Lament passing of earlier, all electric version, killed by recently capitulated American auto industry.
Review notes for 8:00 meeting.
Check hair in rearview.
Notice a nose hair. Repeatedly try to pull it out (ouch!).
Get caught with finger up my nose by the woman driving the Honda Insight in her driver’s side mirror.
She holds my gaze. I pretend to be invisible.
Arrive at the window, hand the cashier my phone to pay. Cashier says, “No need. The woman in front of you bought your drink.”
Drive to work, distressed to the point of distraction. I live in Los Angeles. People don’t do Random Acts of Kindness.
We use more than our fair share of water.
We do not go out of our way to be nice.
What does this coffee mean!?!?
Meeting begins. Share bewildering experience with other four attendees. They debate: One side claims Coffee Woman liked what she saw (despite my public nose cleaning) and wanted to get into my drawers. Other side quashes this theory:
- No email address or digits given to the cashier to be passed along to me.
- C.W. didn’t wait for me.
Instead, suggest Coffee Woman is one of the 79% of Americans that believe doing nice things today gets you to Heaven tomorrow.
I spend the day consumed, now faced with the Final Question in the form of my morning java: Can people treat one another with compassion and kindness without “divine” order?
Polled everyone throughout the day about experience with C.W. Responses evenly divided between C.W. acting on romantic impulse or trying gain entrance into an exclusive afterlife.
Eleven hours later and no clarity about answer to Final Question.
Stop at Taco Spot to pick up some dinner (you should try it!). After I order, the cashier rings me up, tells me the total.
“Would you like anything else?” he says.
I think about it.
Perhaps C.W. was actually hot for me. Or maybe she’s buttering up potential acolytes with free caffeinated beverages. Doesn’t matter. Doing a good deed simply to gain something – a date or eternal salvation – isn’t just disingenuous and selfish, its entirely dismissive of the only thing that we know for certain: Life is short and we make it either more miserable or enjoyable for one another.
I had my credit card to the cashier. “I’d like to buy the next customer’s dinner,” I say. “Anonymously.”
The cashier smiles, “Right on.”
The next customer is a family of seven. I pay $83.26.
featured image credit: ?z???ll ? RAINBOW !