THERE'S ALWAYS A SILVER LINING SOMEWHERE: how paying it forward works even when your coffee spills & your car crashes

            “Double tall …!” the barrista called out.

            I reached for my drink with one hand and, with my other, for one of those green plug thingys that Starbucks provides and I wish other coffee establishments would pilfer. Then I turned, one last time, toward my benefactor. “Thank you ag—“

             My cup slipped. I grabbed for it, to steady it, but it was too late. The lid flew off.

            Appalled, I watched as a Niagara Falls of coffee, milk and syrup that seemed to last forever gushed to the floor.

            “Oh, I’m so sorry!” I cried.

            The barrista called for a mop up. The young man grabbed napkins.

            “Did you burn yourself?” the woman next to me asked.

            “Just my pride,” I answered as I got to work with a handful of napkins of my own. God, it’s embarrassing to be a klutz.

            “This happens all the time,” the Starbucks guy with a mop reassured me. “Don’t worry about it.”

            “You’re the first today, though,” added the gal who had taken my order.

            Which made me laugh.


* * *


            I wasn’t laughing 8 hours later, however.

            I had just backed out of a parking space smack into someone else.

            The woman behind the wheel rolled down her window as, cursing my idiocy under my breath, I flew out of my car to stand contritely beside hers. “Didn’t you see me?”

            “No,” I sighed. “I didn’t. I’m sorry.”

            I shot a dark look sidewise at C250. I’m so trading you in for a model that’ll WARN me.

            The woman, meanwhile, was motioning frantically at a man in a nearby car. Eventually he got the message, and his door opened, and a leg emerged. He seemed to take forever walking toward us...

            “I’m so sorry,” I called once he was within earshot. “I didn’t see her.”

            Together, we surveyed the wreckage. The woman’s car was scraped along the side and, in one spot, I noted with a sick, sinking feeling, was more than likely dented. Ka-chink, ka-chink. $1000…$2000, all from a mishap at ½ mph. Damage to my car was negligible.

            Couldn’t you at least have reversed this? I fussed at C250.

            The couple took my information, and I apologized about 10 trillion more times.

            “It’s okay,” said the man.

            I got the feeling he felt kind of sorry for me, but it wasn’t okay, what had happened, and both of us knew it. Then he introduced himself…and, although you would expect that this one little critical fact would have burned itself into my psyche like a branding iron into a sheep, it didn’t. I’ve forgotten his name.

            “And this,” he added, “is Merced.”

             “Hello, Merced, “ I said to the woman whose car I had hit. “I so wish we could have met under different circumstances.”


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