I am never amazed by the 'random acts of kindness' that occur in and around the city that adopted me! Austin is known for being 'weird', as well as 'wired', but I cannot transform the letters in any way to spell 'kind'.
The 'southern hospitality', along with the 'southern gentleman' has somewhat blended into the society, as like my home home, Austin has become very 'cosmopolitan'. Much as I love London, and England's green and pleasant land, (it will always be home home,) I cannot help but agree with the slogan that I have seen on t-shirts and placards, "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!"
My husband is one of a dying breed. A lot of men will open a door for a woman, be it to a shop or a car, but there are not many that still pull out a chair for their wives at a table, or stand when she returns from the powder room to pull the chair out again, so that she is seated comfortably. It is in his 'DNA'. I have seen many women nudge their partner, when this happens, and I find it quite amusing. However, it is not my intention to extol the virtues of my husband (I would be here all day!) but to extol the virtues of the people of Austin.
The first 'random act' was most unexpected. We made a stop at the supermarket for a few 'random' items, that were essential for my baking spree at the weekend. As I have not been spending time lolling around at the swimming pool on a Sunday afternoon, I have decided to go through all my recipe books and attempt to make all the goodies that I have always wished I had the time to prepare. The ingredients are not always in my cupboard, and I do not always remember from one week to the next what I require when I do my weekly Saturday shop. I paid for the nuts, cheese and fruit, and put everything into my backpack. Samantha had bought something for lunch, and the cashier was in the process of passing it through the scanner. "Let me get that", came a voice from behind. "It is my random act of kindness for today", was the reasoning behind the original comment. Quite embarrassed, Samantha thanked the young lady, who handed the cashier a $10 note. The young lady was 'quite sure', that she wished to do this, and then insisted that the cashier give Samantha the change! Having never been the recipient of this 'random' act, my daughter's face colour started to change to match that of her very bright red hair. No one else batted an eyelid, as it is a common occurrence around these parts! Of course, Samantha now feels obliged to 'pay it forward', and will do so when she finds someone she feels is worthy to be the recipient.
The next day, we made another stop in the supermarket, as lunch had again not been brought, and we stood behind a lady who had more than the 'ten or less' items that were a requirement for using the lane. No one complained as the umpteenth box was placed on the belt, and the woman continued to unload the contents of her shopping trolley on to the moving band. Although it was meant to be an 'express lane', the common consensus of opinion is that if you are there first, you are entitled to go first! "Oh, I am so sorry", said the lady when she saw that Samantha had two items, compared to her monthly requirements! "Perhaps I should pay for these too. I feel so bad making you wait. Let me pay....". Before she could finish her sentence, both my daughter and I shouted back at the lady, "NO!", and then brought our vocal levels down to a more suitable tone, profusely thanking her for the gesture, but refusing the offer as it was quite unnecessary. We were, apparently, very kind for letting her go first, without causing her to 'pay a consequence'.
We were not so quick to go back to the supermarket the following day, as despite the convenience of having everything paid for, it can be a little daunting. Samantha asked if there was anything about her appearance that indicated that she required to have her needs taken care of, and I looked as hard as I could. "Perhaps", I said, trying to find something that would cause people to think that she needed a helping hand, "your shoes do not match your top?" She agreed that the shoes she wore for walking did actually clash with the t-shirt she had chosen for the day, but then she also reminded me that we were "in Austin", so weird, or wired, or any kind of 'out of the ordinary', is the norm!
The kindness of my fellow city dwellers, and those who are further afield, did stretch throughout the week, with a few exceptions. As I hurtled along the highway in my cute car, the light indicating that my tyre needed air started to blink. I forewent the opportunity to refill it at the petrol station near my house, so was not surprised when it started to flash again as I was on an overpass that had no exit for a mile. However, as I took the slip road that led to 'the road to Joe', I stopped at the garage at the top of the hill. After finding $1.25 in my purse, I got out of my car, and started to feed the machine. The first coin deposited brought the price down to seventy five cents, and the second bought it down to fifty I inserted three more coins, and the machine flashed fifty once again, and then insisted that I needed to add another dollar. I was not impressed as the display went back to 'insert $1.25'. Leaving my car by the machine, I marched across the forecourt into the shop, and waited as the assistant finished her conversation with whomever was on the other end of her mobile phone. If I were to describe her attitude, 'random' would definitely be a word that could define her. Kind is a noun that would be a little overused! "Which pump?", she asked as if I was keeping her from doing something more important than the job that (I assume) she was being paid for! I explained that I had put money into the air machine, and it had not produced air! "Okay, is it that pump. The one on the end over there, or the next one, or the next one". Taking a deep breath, I spoke as clearly as I could, and repeated my dilemma. "Is there a number. Can you tell me what number is on the pump?" she asked, with aggressive undertones! I was tempted to use the phrase that has occasionally been thrown my way, although normally in a friendly manner, and ask, "You are not from around here, are you?" I tried once more to explain my dilemma. "Oh that's not our machine", came the answer, through chews on the gum that was having a hard time staying behind her teeth, that were having a hard time becoming ungritted! Apparently, there was a number on the 'box' that I would have to call to request an engineer.
I marched back across the forecourt, and unlocked the car, sat in the driver's seat and retrieved my phone. "Can I help you ma'am", came a very kindly voice. I peered out of the car and saw a very nice, very young man in front of an enormous truck. "Put air in your tyre, ma'am. Can I help you put air in your tyre, ma'am?" Now that was kind! I replied that the machine was not working, and I was going to have to call an engineer. Getting out of my car, I searched the 'box' for a number, but could not find anything. "Can I help you, ma'am", came an offer from the very nice, very young man. We searched the 'box', but could not find anything that resembled a telephone number. I refused to allow the very nice, very young man to go and ask the shop assistant if she knew where the number was located, as I did not want him to be jaded by a negative attitude, but instead suggested we continue looking. Finally, stuck at the back, in the corner, in minute lettering, was a telephone number, and a company name. Between us, we managed to decipher the code and the very nice, very young man, climbed (literally) back into his enormous truck, and set off to find another air machine, with enough gas to fill the tyres that would probably need more huff and puff than the fairy tale wolf could deliver!
Not expecting much joy, I called the number, and pressed the relevant number on my keypad. "Your call is important to us", is always a sign that there is a queue and I am going to be put on hold for a considerable length of time. Just before I decided to 'hang up', and put the whole event down to experience, a voice came over the airwaves. "Hello, this is (I didn't catch the name, as I was in shock) in Dallas. How may I help you today?" I blurted out my dilemma. Instead of the usual jargon that is another phrase for, "What do you expect me to do about it", I was rather pleasantly surprised. "Oh my, I am so sorry. That shouldn't happen. Can you give me your location. I am so sorry!" I attempted to give her my location as quickly as possibly, as her empathy was so strong, I suspected that she would burst into tears before the conversation was over. Her request for a 'serial number' was taken as kindly as it could be. She did not realise that anything pertaining to the company operating the machine was stuck at the back, in tiny letters, which required me to be a contortionist with x-ray vision! I managed to manoeuvre myself around the corner and with the help of my phone light, I gave her the information she required. "Oh there you are", she said with an expression of delight and relief. "I have found you!" Half expecting a 'tinkerbell' character to fly own onto the metal contraption, I looked around to see exactly where she was. Of course, she had found me on her digital map, and not literally found me standing stranded with an almost flat tyre! She assured me that someone would be "out to fix it", as soon as humanly possible, and then took my name and address, in order to send me a refund! As I returned to my car, another large truck pulled up behind me, and a very nice, very young man jumped (literally) down from the driver's seat and asked, "Can I help you put air in your tyre, ma'am?" I must say, I had to resist at this point, being unkind, and shouting back, "Do I not look capable of putting air in a tyre. How old do you think I am?" but remembered where I was, and also that it was exactly that attitude that stopped very nice, very young men help the likes of little ol' me! I explained that the machine was broken. I refused to allow the very nice, very young man to go and tell the shop assistant that the machine was broken, as I did not want him to be jaded by a negative attitude! I did tell him that help was on its way, but I was unsure as to when it would be there! Apparently, the very nice, very young man did not need air. He had just stopped to make sure I was okay! If guilt could kill, I would have been struck down dead just from my previous negative reaction!
I filled the tyre with air, on my own, without an offer of help, at petrol station a few blocks away from the office. Strangely enough, I actually looked around to see if there was anyone who would 'lend a hand'!
Random acts of kindness did not end at the supermarket, nor at the petrol station. Dana and I went out for breakfast on Sunday morning. The restaurant was not busy, as is usual for an early Sunday morning, and most of the patrons recognise the other early risers, and bid each other a good morning. I waved to the chef, who responded in kind, and then inquired as to the health of the wait staff, as I always do. Dana had a voucher for a 'free dessert', and presented this once we had finished our repast. The waitress showed him the options, and he chose a small fruit tartlett. She handed us a box and indicating that there would be 'enough for two', before wishing us a pleasant 'rest of the day', and a great week ahead. How kind, I thought! The extent of her kindness was revealed when we returned home and opened the box. Two 'big enough to share' fruit tarts stared back at me! Of course, this could have been a marketing ploy, but as we frequent the establishment fairly regularly, I like to think it was one more random act of kindness!
I shall be sure to enjoy my delivery of kindness tomorrow night after my dinner. Although there have been highlights this week, there has been a sad occurrence. The restaurant where I receive my usual weekly portion of 'pie', on a Monday, has closed. Kindness did not abound when the staff were told they had eight days to find alternative employment, but then all is (apparently) fair in love and war!
Samantha is still waiting to 'pay it forward'! The week ahead will hopefully have lots of kindness within, and we shall be sure to reciprocate as often as we can. I could have been extra kind and allowed someone else to go to the radio station for lunch and a 'meet and greet' on Friday, but I wasn't! Thanks to the kindness of the said radio station, Samantha and I got to meet the man who achieved a number one on the Country Music Hit list this month! I do love living in Austin and taking part in all the 'kindness' it has to offer. I shall report back with who, when and where in .......... another story!