Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A good turn daily

You know those emails that promise stuff like this?

For every person you forward this message to, Bill Gates will pay for one congenitally headless kid to go to Disney World!!!! Microsoft can keep track of how many people you forward this message to, so forward this to as many people as you know!!!! The kids are counting on you!!!!

I'd like to think that those are still floating around entirely for their humor value. I mean, really. I'd like to think that people know by now that Microsoft can't track how many people you send emails to, and that Microsoft can't even track your emails. Statistically speaking, at least a handful of the people who do believe that stuff use their Macs to compose messages on Gmail. But then again, I'd also like to think that George W. Bush isn't interested in my private emails... and I'll never know until it's too late.

Last Thursday I went up to Napa for an interview. Between here and there, as between most places in the Bay Area, is a bridge. Bridge toll is $3, except for the Golden Gate Bridge, which is $5; and thank G-d they only collect toll in one direction. It is apparently possible to route your commute so that you never pay toll, but then again that involves spending a lot more time on the highways than I would really like. So anyway, I arrived at the toll booth and went to hand my $3 to the booth worker.

"No," said the booth worker, "she already paid." She pointed at the car that had gone through before me.

"Huh?" I said.

"The car in front of you? She already paid. Go ahead!"

I went on my merry way, and then of course my way turned panicky. What had I done? Did I misunderstand the booth worker and commit a toll violation? Were the California Highway Patrol going to come zooming after me? Or maybe, as I was trying to find a cash lane, I got in front of someone who was following the person who'd already paid, and the person I'd passed didn't have any money and didn't have a cell phone and would be stranded on the wrong side of the toll plaza and it would be ALL MY FAULT.

Then I had to figure out the Napa exit and forgot all about this toll thing. The ramp was no longer under construction, as it had been the last time I'd been to Napa six months earlier; so of course I got partially lost while looking for the Shell station where I remembered having to do a near-180.

Last night my wife and I went to dinner with friends in Novato, and of course to get theah from heah, you have to go across a bridge. I told my wife about my fear that I'd stranded someone last Thursday.

"People do that all the time!" she said. She's been living in the Bay Area for four years, so she should know.

"It's a random act of kindness," she continued. "You pay for you and the person behind you."

"Well, I think now I have a karmic obligation to pay for someone else," I said. "Wanna do it?"

"Sure," she said.

So the two chicks in the eleven-year-old blue Outback paid for the chick in the brand-spankin'-new silver Outback behind them. As we (well, my wife) drove onto the bridge, I turned around and saw that brand-spankin'-new silver Outback take a rather long time to go through the plaza. Perhaps she was confused, too. Perhaps she was wondering who it was who paid her toll for her. I wondered whether she'd give us a wave or something when she caught up to us.

But within a minute she'd passed us at lightning speed, without so much as a glance at our Big Gay Subaru.

When I was a Brownie Girl Scout, I used to wonder what "one good turn deserves another" meant. Kind of like "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves the whole world blind and toothless," I thought that all those good turns could only result in a lot of dizziness and vomiting. Yes, I was a literal child. The "Random Acts of Kindness" thing came out when I was a teenager, and I didn't really get that either. Like, what good would it do to do something randomly nice for someone if they don't know who's done it for them? That's dumb.

Well, let me tell you, it's not dumb. The next time you pay a flat toll, hand the worker the toll for the next driver, too. Revel in the warmth and fuzziness.

My interview, by the way, went well.

And Ayn Rand? Eat your heart out.

Special note to congenitally headless children: If you ask me, Disney World's pretty overrated.


Anonymous said...

Well, you can't really do that on the Pike because everyone has different tolls depending upon where they got on.

Gerbil said...

True. And when we finally move back to your neck of the woods, then we won't have to pay all the stupid (flat) bridge tolls anymore!