Wednesday, March 10, 2021

This is What Happens When You Try to Do Something Nice

I took the car for an oil change today. Since Ren has a colonoscopy tomorrow and can’t consume anything other than clear liquids and diuretics, I decided to stop for something to eat on the way home. Very rarely do I take myself out for a meal, even less so during a pandemic. Since I had a Starbucks gift card, I decided to get a sandwich there, even though it wasn’t directly on my way home and Starbucks isn’t exactly known for its sandwiches.

When you are an overthinker with social (and other) anxiety, even the simple decisions can lead to a lot of second-guessing. As I waited to pick up my food, I wondered if I should have gone to this Starbucks or the other one? I worried that the person coming into the line from the other lane would think I was trying to cut them off (who designed this drive thru anyway?). I debated whether I should have gotten a coffee (even though I didn’t want one), so it would be less weird for me to get a sandwich. This is what my mind does all day, every day; it’s why I am often distracted.

It’s also why I had absolutely no idea what to do when the guy at the window told me it was my lucky day because my sandwich was free. He didn’t explain why it was free—simply handed it to me and told me to have a good day. What!?!

I don’t know what people who are not me would do in this situation. People who are me, though, panic. I didn’t know what to say, so I awkwardly said thank you and then drove off. I’d heard about people doing these kinds of random acts of kindness at Starbucks (why is it always Starbucks?), but I’d never been the recipient of one. In fact, since the guy at the window didn’t tell me why my sandwich was free, I wasn’t sure WHAT had happened.

I pulled into a parking space a few stores down and texted my friend. Maybe she’d know what to do.

This is how it went:

(Please ignore grammar issues; I was distressed).

I finished my mediocre sandwich during the course of this text exchange, and while my friend made me feel a little better about failing to be a decent human being, I still felt pretty bad about not responding graciously and effusively and then offering to pay it forward by buying the next person’s lunch. Obviously, this must be what the situation required of me.

So, I decided to call Ren. Ren is a kind and helpful man, but he is also more frugal and and more rational than me. Surely he could make me feel better. When I told him what happened, though, he couldn’t get over the fact a random stranger paid for my lunch. “Why would someone do that?” he asked, incredulously, thinking it must be some strange American custom he hadn’t heard about before. I explained that it’s apparently something people do from time to time, and that I was pretty sure that I should have done the same for the car behind me, but that I panicked, and I didn’t know if I had enough money on my gift card to pay for someone else’s meal. “That’s ok, isn’t it?” I asked. “It’s ok that I didn’t pay for someone else’s meal, right?”

There were many possible "right" responses Ren could have given here, but instead, he said, “I mean, I guess...”

Gah! He guesses?!?!? Now I will NEVER know if I am the worst human on the planet or not. Though, I’m pretty sure I am because instead of being grateful for someone else’s act of kindness and paying it forward, I did nothing and then worried that the Starbucks window guy must think I’m a huge jerk. Worse, I felt kind of mad that someone else made themselves feel good at my expense! How could I possibly enjoy my sandwich now that it was laced with so much guilt?

See? This is what happens when you try to do something nice for an overthinker with social anxiety. You end up ruining her day and pretty much ensuring she will never go to Starbucks again.


PS: I showed a draft of this post to my friend, and she said, “You did the person behind you a favor by not continuing the cycle. Basically you’re an American hero.” We should all have friends like this who know just what to say when we’re freaking out about a random act of kindness.

PPS: Thanks to the person who bought my lunch today. I really do appreciate it even though I had no idea how to behave in response.

PPPS: For those of you who know me in real life, I hope you know how grateful I am for all that you do, even if I AM all awkward and inappropriate about it.

No comments: