Friday was a busy day for me at the Oscoda Press. I was covering for people who were off, getting pages designed for the coming newspaper, and juggling many different things, when I realized it was after 1 p.m. and I was hungry.
So I headed over to a local fast food restaurant to grab something to bring back to my desk so I could continue working. When I get to the fast food drive thru it wasn’t busy, but there is still a wait in line. I get to the speaker, order my meal and pull up to the window when I got a big surprise. Before I could hand over my cash, the cashier at the window informed me that the car in front of me had kindly paid for my order. That person paid it forward, or one could argue, paid it “backward” in line. What a nice surprise!
I have to be honest and I was not even paying attention to the vehicle in front of me. I couldn’t tell you if it was a man or a woman, car or truck, or even the color. I was focused on getting my food and getting back to the office and getting my jobs done for the day, but all the same I was very grateful that someone thought of me, a stranger, and gave me a little act of kindness.
This was not the only instance of this happening recently, however. At a different fast food restaurant, where a coworker had gone a few days earlier for lunch, someone did the same thing for her, paying for her lunch. In turn she paid for the lunch of the vehicle behind her. What that vehicle did, however, I do not know.
When I went to the fast food restaurant I did not have the opportunity to buy the vehicle behind me lunch, because there was no vehicle behind me. I thought this may be isolated incidents of people buying each other meals, secretly, in Oscoda until Sunday when I went to a local restaurant for an early morning breakfast.
I was sitting there eating my meal when a couple who had been in the establishment before me came to the counter to pay, and the front counter person told that a man had paid for their meal. They were surprised, of course, and it was interesting to see the joy on their faces and the surprise walking out of this restaurant having their meal paid for by a complete stranger for no other reason than the stranger wanting to do something nice.
To be sure, they could have known the person who bought them the meal, but as we were the only people in the restaurant, and there was not talking or otherwise acknowledgment between the couple and the man, I doubt they knew each other.
Perhaps there is a “random acts of kindness” wave that is hitting Oscoda, or Iosco County. I have not heard of other reports of people getting surprise lunches, breakfasts or dinners, but I think it is a great way to do something nice for someone and give them a surprise.
This is not the first of its kind to happen in the United States, in fact in 2014 a Starbucks coffee store in St. Petersburg, Fla. had people buying each others’ coffee for nearly 11 hours, as reported in USA Today in August of that year.
As reported in the story, the chain of “stranger buying for a stranger” began when a woman drove up to the window at 7 a.m. and bought herself a caramel macchiato, and then asked to pay for the driver behind her.
That driver did the same thing, and so on for 11 hours and the employees kept track of how many people began doing it at the drive thru. In total, before the final person declined to pay for the next person, there were 378 people who paid for the person behind them in the Starbucks line.
The cashier told USA Today reporters that the 379th person, who did not pay it forward, may have not understood the “pay it forward” concept.
I think the idea of paying it forward is a good one. I know personally that helping someone do something or get something done, when it’s not expected from you and you do not expect something in return, is a good feeling.
Some may argue that the 379th person, the one who broke the Starbucks chain, may not get the concept of paying it forward, but perhaps that person was thinking of paying it forward to someone else in a different way.
I know that in the future I am going to think of ways that I can do a random act of kindness to surprise a stranger to keep paying it forward in my own way.