Experiments in Kindness, Part 2 of ?
Well, my lunchtime kindness experiment didn't go very well. I went down to Burger King to find a woman standing at the counter, ripping the clerk a new one because her sundaes had come without hot fudge. She was clearly strung out as hell, with leathery skin stretched drum-tight over her skull but still marked with wrinkles like razor-cuts in clay, and I do not know what her drug of choice is but I know neither her appearance or her manner suggested sobriety. She was fit to be tied because she had paid $1.29 each for two sundaes, and the clerk had given her two cups of plain ice cream and was telling her that the hot fudge cost extra. "That's not a sundae, that's ice cream," she kept saying, reasonably enough, and then she'd lean over the counter to try to poke the picture of the sundaes on the screen and she'd yell "That's FALSE ADVERTISING!" The poor clerk, who is not at fault for Burger King's sundae-toppings policy, kept reiterating again and again that it would cost more for the hot fudge, and the woman was yelling, and everyone in line was shifting from foot to foot and looking in other directions, and oh.
So I dug what change I had out of my purse and laid it on the counter next to the woman. I happen to agree with her that a cup of plain ice cream is not a sundae*, but more than that, I mostly wanted her to just leave the clerk alone. I figured I was doing them both a favor. "I think that should cover the hot fudge," I said.
She glanced down at it, said, "Aw, thank you, sweetie," and pocketed it. Then she resumed fighting with the clerk.
Well, you win some, you lose some. I just contributed 87 cents toward her next bag of whatever, and I hope it doesn't kill her. She eventually left with her two cups of plain ice cream, and life moved on.
I knew from the start of this that naivete was going to be a big stumbling block in my attempts to be kinder to people, and nowhere is that likely to be more evident than in my attempts to treat homeless people and drug addicts, who flock around the block where I work by the dozens, like ordinary human beings and not crafty con artists who are always looking to take advantage of you and who, if you give them money, are going to immediately use it to overdose. I have a cousin who works with addicts for a living and man does she ream me out for giving money to homeless people. I have taken what she says more to heart than I meant to, and so in recent months I've taken to buying little gift certificates to Burger King and giving those out to panhandlers,*** figuring it would be a hassle to try to trade those for money or drugs or anything else and so the odds are good they'll just use them to eat. I like to think that's a good balance between naivete and cruel skepticism. But every so often I do something like I just did today, and sometimes it goes stupid, like it did today. I'm not really sure what the moral of the story is, but I'll file it away. Maybe by the end of a month and change I'll have an answer.
*I just got into a thing with JP Licks because they are out of hot fudge, whipped cream, or both half the times I go there. I wrote a letter of complaint about that and the fact that they were playing obscene Chris Brown music really loud the last time I went there, and then I realized that I had become A Person Who Writes Complaint Letters to Proprietors of Ice Cream Parlors and I had an internal crisis. Point is, I too feel it is an important point of principle that a sundae is not a sundae without *at least* one wet topping.
**Why does Microsoft's version of the crying-laughing emoji look like an emoji wearing streaky face paint at a football game?
***Actually they happen to have had a couple of promotions where they gave away tickets for free food -- one of them a promotion where a dollar gets you a scratch-off ticket and scratching it reveals what free food item you get, and the other just a "give us $1 and we'll give you a booklet of coupons for free food" thing, both of them benefiting the Jimmy Fund. I LOVED that because it meant I could buy a bunch of them to give out to homeless people and even if they didn't use them or bartered them or someshit I was still donating to the Jimmy Fund. But now both those promotions are over and I only have one coupon book left so I don't know what I do next.