Pay It Forward: The Gift-Card

, , , , , , | Hopeless | March 25, 2018

I am a once-a-month regular at a fast food place known for its sandwiches. I got a gift-card for my birthday, several months ago, and have only used it a few times.

One day, I decide to go grab some food before I officially check in at work. All I have with me when I walk into the restaurant is my gift card and the spare change in my coat, but I know — know! — that I’ve only used my gift card four times.

The person at the first part of the counter starts getting my usual ready when I walk in. I chat with her and her coworker while their practiced hands move my sandwich down the assembly line until both the sandwich and I reach the cashier. She starts ringing me up, and my total is $5.13. I hand her the gift card…

…and lo and behold, I screwed up somewhere. I only have twenty-four cents left. The change in my coat brings it to less than $1.50.

The two little old ladies behind me start digging in their wallets and add what they can spare to my total, bringing it to just under $4.00. For the umpteenth time, I apologize to the cashier, and offer to run back to my workplace, where I left my backpack, so I can grab my emergency $20. I haven’t gotten more than a few words out when she waves me off.

“It’s fine. You have enough money right here.”

Before I can recover from that, she rings me through, prints my receipt, and hands me my sandwich, all while reassuring me that it’s fine and that it doesn’t matter that I don’t have the right amount of money.

I didn’t realize, then, but her till would have been down at the end of the day.

So, in other words, two old women gave up all but what they needed for their own sandwiches, and a cashier risked getting in trouble, so that a hungry, broke student had something to eat. I have no hope of finding the two women again, so I paid that small debt forward, instead, over the next several months.

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