So this morning I tried a little social experiment….instead of going through the Starbucks drive through, I went inside.
As I walked in, I surveyed the scene. Almost every person was enveloped in their phone/computer and probably had no clue anyone new had walked through the door. I looked over my shoulder to see a line of about 10 people deep accumulating behind me. I got up to the cash register, ordered my drink, then asked for a $25 gift card. I quietly asked the barista to use the gift card for as many drinks as it would cover for the people behind me. I told her you can tell them I’m still here, but don’t tell them who did it. She smiled…giggled…and said ok.
I got my drink…and took a seat in the corner to watch this unfold.
The first gentleman to receive a free drink demanded he pay, but the barista insisted it was covered…so he dropped his $5 he was going to use to pay for his drink into the barista’s tip jar. Success. She turned to me and winked.
The second and third patrons in line were 2 old buddies having their weekly coffee date. They had to be pushing 80 and they were so confused at not having to pay that they just left their money on the counter and asked her to use it for the people behind them. It was a younger guy who then after receiving his free drink went over to the gentleman and shook their hands. Success.
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I proceeded to watch 14 different people enjoy a “free” drink. Some people paid for the people behind them in line, and some people just took their free drink and scanned the room looking for the free drink fairy, smiling at everyone they encountered. Success.
But the best part about it: I also got to watch people step out of their normal robot-like morning routine and be human. They put their phones down.They picked their heads up and made eye contact with people in the room. They exchanged smiles and head nods, wondering if that was the person that paid for their drinks. I watched people be kind, courteous, and engaging. I watched people who normally would avoid eye contact, spark a conversation all because of a kind gesture. Success.
My favorite part was a little old man named Hank. I guess Hank comes in every day for his tall drip coffee with room for a splash of cream and sunshine (and that’s exactly how he ordered his drink). I knew his name was Hank because everyone who worked there stopped what they were doing to say good morning to Hank.
After recieving his free drink (the las drink the gift card covered), Hank took it upon himself to ask every single person in that starbucks if they were the one who got his coffee because he needed to say thank you. As I was sitting in the corner, I watched him go around the room, and knew he would eventually make it to me. As he got to me, I smiled. He just stopped and said “It was you huh? Stand up young lady.” So I stood up, and as Hank balanced himself with his cane under one arm, he gave me the biggest, tightest hug he could with the other arm and said “You were that little ray of sunshine I seek every day. Today I am vertical, you woke up too, so be blessed not stressed.” He tipped his hat, and hobbled away.
I packed up my stuff, and headed off to work.
Next time you can, pay it forward.