Time for Strangers

My parents raised me to accept kindness when it comes and express gratitude. A random act, hello or compliment is a person going out of their way to make a connection. A little positive action goes a long way, even if it is the simplest of gestures or the moment only lasts seconds. On the grand scheme of things, it’s one step towards connecting the human race.

I headed to the downtown Recess Coffee location for a typical afternoon espresso. I parked the car. Someone shouted at me.

The woman in in the silver sedan pulled up to the line of cars, stopped her car right after she passed the nose of mine. Double parking on the one-way Montgomery isn’t the best idea. Perhaps she was waiting for me to pull out so she can pull in, I thought, and I felt bad about that miscommunication.

While my feet stepped toward the parking meter, she hollered at me: Hey! I didn’t think she was talking to me since there were plenty of other people in the vicinity, and maybe she was trying to get the attention of a person she was picking up.

Hey! — I heard again. Come here! I looked up.

The African American woman, who was maybe in her 50s, opened her door and held out the white dashboard ticket to me. I still have a lot of time on this ticket, she said quickly.

Oh, wow. Thank you so much. I said to her. It was quite the pleasant surprise. The simple, kind gesture felt like a bestowed major award.

As she sat back in her car, she said something I didn’t quite catch. What I heard: Feel free to pass it along if you don’t use up all of the time.

I smiled at her, and we exchanged open palm, still finger waves.

My initial thought was to buy the person behind me a coffee, but there wasn’t a line. After enjoying the espresso, I walked to my car. My pace slowed, because my mind was excited about the thought of coincidence. Unfortunately, no one was driving through the tight one-way street. Paying it forward was, unfortunately, not going to to happen that day.

My door shut. Seatbelt clicked. The entered key started the ignition. Cue the directional, and I pulled out after a gentleman in an approaching car allowed me to pull out.

It wasn’t long that my rearview mirror showed my eyes he was taking the now vacant spot. Yes! I shouted aloud and pulled the car to the righthand side of the street and parked up on the curb (as all the cars illegally do).

I jumped out and double-stepped it over to the Indian gentleman, who looked to be in his 60s. Hi, sir! I greeted him. The energy in my voice probably scared him. I just saw you took my spot. I have a bunch of time left on this parking stub, and I’d like you to have it.

Oh! Thank you, he said as he reached for the ticket.

Have a good one, I said.

You, too, he replied.

I didn’t ask him to do the same thing, because it was implied. That notion of karma was thrown out into the ether and it had built up energy, and that rectangle-shaped paper ticket was electric. Although the three of us may never cross paths again — who knows, mid-sized City of Syracuse is small enough despite seeing new faces every single day — it was wonderful to recognize and experience the real life connection, what we all had before the internet’s universe expanded, and this is something the younger millennials and future generations may never remember or experience. There was no need for online engagement, there wasn’t any negative blabbering, hateful posts or comments.

It was life as it is and how it should be.

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