“You’ve got to pay it forward” can be quite dangerous advice.
This morning, I was strolling through the blackness, a dark so pervasive that I could have been looking through the souls of insurance agents. I was immersed in a TED talk with the volume loud enough to overcome my middle-aged ears’ tendency to interpret everything as either a whisper or a scream.
In the background, I heard faint music. After a few seconds, I heard it again. It sounded like someone had put a transistor radio in their pocket just as the mafia threw them head-first into the trunk of a 1978 Buick. Just as I reached up to turn down the volume to listen attentively, from behind me a booming voice said, “Good morning!” just as a runner came sprinting by me. I’m pretty sure I slapped myself in over-reaction to being startled in the dark like that. So much for having the small slices of Springdale to myself. It’s too bad the runner hadn’t been a ninja with sword upraised just as I turned to see him. A coronary might not have startled me as much. “Thanks!” I hollered at him as he streaked ahead. How he could see anything was a mystery to me. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure if I was walking on the road or an imaginary surface, either.
When I finished my walk, I decided to go ahead and go the store. I chose Harp’s because it’s much quieter in the morning. My wife had mentioned needing a toenail clipping holder or sour cream. I couldn’t’ remember which so I decided to go inside and jog my memory. Though not germane to this anecdote, I found Schweppes Lemon-Lime sparkling water and stopped to cry a few tears of joy. Though not as good as Tab soda (the best soda ever created), it’s a joyous drink.
As I neared the row of registers, I briefly courted the idea of making a run for the door just to see if anyone would notice. By run, of course, I mean ‘walk like my legs remembered what running felt like.’
Instead, as I reached the last register aisle, I noticed that the cashier was standing with her back to me, her mind lost in the early morning doldrums so frequently exhibited by people who don’t have the sense to get up later. I crept closer, certain that she surely had heard my approach. I leaned over the register conveyor and whispered, “Boo!” in a soft voice. Although her head didn’t quite touch the overhead ceiling tiles as she jumped in terror, her ponytail did have sufficient time on the landing to swirl around her head at least 5 times before her toes touched the ground. As she turned, she began laughing, which was a relief. It’s one thing to be tased but another to be tased before you’ve had your morning coffee. (Again, although not related directly to this story, the cashier’s eyes looked like Alanis Morissette.)
We shared a laugh as I apologized and reminded her of the importance of paying it forward, whether it might a scare, a dollar, or a laugh.