Sometimes, when my will is weak, I stop at McDonalds on the way to work for a cup of coffee. It is a waste of time and money to do so. I have coffee at home and tea at work. McDonald's isn't even actually on my way; I have to drive a couple of stoplights past my usual turn to get there. But I do like the coffee and the whole ritual of making an unnecessary stop for a little treat.
Also, I sorta like just going to McDonalds. Besides the coffee, one thing I like is the cross-section of America you can find underneath the golden arches. There are tables of retired men, who drink their tiny senior cups of coffee while reading the newspapers and chewing the fat. There are young professional types like me, though most of them evidently work at offices that require a bit more effort in the appearance of their employees. Truckloads of construction workers stop off on their way to a site. Half of the staff behind the counter is bilingual, and they switch effortlessly between languages depending on who is ordering.
I was waiting my turn in line. The guy in front of me, a scraggly middle-aged black man in a faded sweatshirt and jeans, ordered a coffee. All sizes of coffee are a buck at this particular Mickey D's, and so the total was $1.08. He had a single and a five. To avoid breaking the five, he asked his friend if he had any change. The friend did not. I sensed an opportunity to be a nice person, so I stepped forward and offered a dime from my coin purse. By that time, the clerk already had the dude's fiver, so the larger bill was going to be broken anyway. Oh well.
The man got his $4.02 back. He gave me the two pennies, which I expected. And then he stuffed another dollar into my hand. Apparently, giving out dimes could possibly be a very good investment opportunity, reaping an immediate 900% return on investment. I tried to say no, because it was completely unnecessary. Plus, it sort of took the shine off my nice gesture by rewarding it. But he was insistent, saying, "You might need it someday." I shrugged and relented. I wondered if it was important to him that I not think he needed it today, just like it was important to me for him to not think I piped up with the expectation of a reward.
I ordered my coffee and paid my own $1.08. I stuffed the extra dollar into the Ronald McDonald House donation box. Pass it on, pass it on.