177. Pay it Forward, no, wait…uh, okay


So this morning was Coffee Nation. Gene was already there when I arrived early at 8 a.m. Pastor Kyle was in his corner whispering in tongues about the Detroit Lions. The new barrista Jim was on duty, solo for the first time without supervision. He’s a literalist, I think. Jim not Kyle. He combined an earth science undergraduate degree with a master’s in divinity so that he can do disaster relief work, i.e., a cross between an evangelist and a weatherman, or a preacher in a tornado… whereas Kyle is a water spout wrapped in a preacher’s skin, kinda like a wet burrito. In any event he did not know about the Coffee Nation and I did not take the time to educate him, again, Jim not Kyle. I simply said, “Jim, can you run a tab for me and my crew? We get together on Thursday mornings and I put it on my tab.” He assured me that he could do this as I handed him a twenty dollar bill.

Image result for pay it forward pictures“Oh sure.” I pointed to Gene and said hello to the guy behind me, a peripheral personality whose name I have forgotten. I got my coffee and sat across from Gene. We started chatting. About five minutes later the familiar dude whose name I’ve forgotten called my name, “Hey, thanks.” I looked at him and noted Jim’s smile and nod at me. In a millisecond I figured it out– Jim thought that No Name was with my crew. “Oh you’re welcome.” I smiled to myself. ‘I’m an accidental nice guy this morning… funny thing.’

For the next hour I chatted with Gene about this and that. I stood up to settle my bill with Jim. A nice lady was waiting for Jim to finish making her several fru-fru coffees. When she moved to pay him, he said “Ma’am, I have four dollars here to go toward your coffees…thanks to this nice gentleman.” I was stuck in a cognitive revolving door. I smiled my stupid guy smile again. She thanked me as Jim explained that I had started a pay-it-forward chain, and that over the past hour many customers had continued to pay for the next customer’s coffee. I was speechless and penniless. Again, I smiled like a monkey that had missed a vine and fallen 100 feet face first onto the jungle floor.

“So, Jim. We’re good?”

“Oh yeah, I just love it when folks do that. It’s inspiring.”

“Okay, well two thumbs up then. Pay it forward, Man.” I walked out into the cold rainy morning. In four years of Coffee Nation that had never happened, which has saved me a lot of money, come to think of it. I had to laugh at the untold story. Correcting the mistake would have taken longer than it was worth. It’s only four parking tickets, I thought. I can afford it.

Cryptically, as I sauntered over to my office, I remembered the story of David Brinkley, the old co-anchor of the Huntley-Brinkley News Report from the old, old days of black and white television. He was rushing through an airport when a fan stopped him. “Oh, you’re Chet Huntley”, the fan insisted. As Brinkley told the story, he had in that moment to decide between journalistic integrity or personal expediency. He chose the latter, realizing if he took the time to correct this fan, he’d miss his plane. So he agreed with her mistake for personal expediency.

“Yes, Ma’am, I’m Chet Huntley, and I’ve got to catch my plane.”

She replied, “Oh, good. I can’t stand that David Brinkley fellow.”

Oh Blogwads, we rip what we sew…and reap what we have sown.

Oh, Irony, why dost thou plague me? No one ever said this, but I wanted a dramatic segue to a third vignette. The problem is that I don’t have a nifty third vignette that somehow loosely connects to the previous two, no matter how tenuous the thread of connection. Dang it! I’ve written myself into a corner… which demands extreme creativity to make it appear that this was my destination all along. Plus I can edit to make it seem that way.

In a dark corner near the bathrooms I heard strange syllables being uttered by a man in a caffeinated stupor. “Our year…it’s our year.”
“Verlander. Cabrera. Prince. No, no.” It was Pastor Kyle in a brief psychotic episode driven by sports grief. His Tigers had gone down in flames to Big Papi and the Red Sox during the ACLS playoffs. He had the all too familiar 1,000 yard stare of a multi-tour war veteran. He held his head up with both hands at his throbbing temporal lobes. Foam was forming at the corners of his mouth. I could not tell if this was residual macchiato foam or if he was self frothing. The situation was dire. I sprang into action.

“We’ve got a man down here! I need some help.” I threw Kyle down and loosened the top button of his shirt. I splashed cold water on his delirious face as he continued stammering, “It’s going, going, gone. Big Papi has cleared the bases with one swing.”

Jim noticed the commotion and recognized the unrelieved disaster. He jumped over the bar with one leap and sprinted the 30 feet back to where Kyle lay. All of his training kicked in. He was seeing things in slow motion. He pushed me out of the way and announced, “I’m a professional. Stand back.” I complied gladly. Not knowing where this might end and whose liability it was anyway.

Jim expertly cleared Kyle’s airway and began CPR. Three compressions, one breath. Kyle came back quickly. “Ewww. Why are slobbering on me? What happened? What’s going on?”

I stepped in to try to explain. “Kyle, this is Jim. He is a weatherman preacher. His hands are registered with the Red Cross. He noticed your sports disaster and jumped in to help resuscitate you. He may have saved your fantasy football season. You were choking and gasping. We had to do something.”

Still confused and dysphoric, Kyle said, “Why? Why did you save my sports life if all I’ve got to look forward to is more suffering and loss? I’m a Detroit fan.”

Calmly I put my hand on his trembling shoulder. “Kyle, I needed a third vignette to close my blog, man. You’re paying it forward. It’s all good.”

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2 thoughts on “177. Pay it Forward, no, wait…uh, okay

  1. KHarney, your coffee nation story made me laugh out loud… Within the presence of conversing teachers. Of the 100 words of Czech I know, I ensured I maintained direct eye contact with the screen so they didn’t think I was laughing at them. Thanks for the laugh… And for being a surprise blessing to the people of C&C:)

    • Lauren, you go right ahead and laugh out loud in any language you like… I guess laughter is a universal language of its own, come to think of it. Many blessings on your sweet head, Lauren. Enjoy your adventure.

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