Hugs For The Holidays

| Charleston, WV, USA | Holidays, Non-Dialogue

I am a cashier at a department store. It is near the beginning of November, and people have already begun Christmas shopping. A woman comes up to my register, and as I am ringing up her items, we begin to talk.

I ask her if she’s started Christmas shopping yet, noting the multiple children’s toys on the counter. With a shake of her head, she says that they’re for her nieces and nephews. She looks upset, so I ask her if something is wrong. She tells me that her fiancé had been taken off of life support a few weeks previously, having been declared brain-dead after an accident.

Since there are few customers in the store at the moment, she tells me about her fiancé. I listen and offer my condolences, knowing what it is like to face the holidays for the first time without someone you love. As she gathers her things and is getting ready to leave, I ask her if it would be all right if I gave her a hug. She says yes, so I walk around the counter and hug her. She has tears in her eyes when the hug ends, and she thanks me before leaving the store.

Last week, the woman came into the store and again ended up at my register. She recognized me immediately and smiled, thanking me for my support. If you’re somehow reading this, I’m glad I could help you feel better, ma’am, and I’m sorry for your loss. The holidays are rough when you’ve just lost someone you loved, but you can get through it.


No Cancer For Christmas

| CT, USA | Health & Body, Holidays, Kind Strangers

(I’m working the register at my home pharmacy. A man asks to pick up his prescriptions, and some for his wife. I take the necessary information, and grab hers at the same time as his. Note: she has around a half dozen prescriptions, some in large bags.)

Customer #1: *seeing me with several bags* “Oh, dear, that’s more than I thought.”

Me: “It’s all right; some are just larger than others.”

(I ring up the total for the prescriptions; it’s about $15 dollars. As I’m relating the price to him, he searchers his pockets for extra cash.)

Customer #1: *clearly embarrassed* “I’m sorry, but I only have $5.”

Me: “That’s okay; we can hold your wife’s prescriptions for the next two weeks. At least her painkillers have no co-pay, so you can take these home for her right now.”

(At this point, the customer at the till next to mine looks over.)

Customer #2: “Excuse me, but how much are your co-pays?”

Customer #1: “Oh, it’s OK, really.”

Customer #2: “Are they more than $20?” *he already has a 20 dollar bill in his hand*

Me: “It’s about $15.”

Customer #1: “Really, you don’t need to do that.”

Customer #2: “Well, I’ll just take the change then, and you trade me the $5.”

Customer #1: *looks about ready to cry* “Thank you. You don’t know what this means to me.”

Customer #2: “My wife has cancer. If someone hadn’t helped us out at one point or another, we wouldn’t have her medication. Is her insurance [Insurance Company]?”

(The second customer then tells the first how to get co-pay booklets, to help with the cost of co-pays, so he can get the prescriptions cheaper in the future. I hand the change back to the second customer as promised, and the prescriptions to the first customer.)

Customer #1: *shakes the hand of the other customer* “Thank you, sir. You’ve made my Christmas.”

Kind Strangers Kindness

Spoon-Feeding Nice Gestures

| Nottingham, England, UK | Food & Drink, Kind Strangers

(I’m travelling to visit my family for some much needed recuperation, after being quite unwell for several weeks. It’s a long day, it’s mid-November, the train is delayed, and I only have a yogurt for dinner. The refreshment cart and its handler are passing through.)

Me: “Excuse me; do you happen to have a plastic spoon?”

Cashier: *checks the cart* “Nope. Doesn’t look like it. What are you eating?”

Me: “Yogurt.”

Cashier: “Oh. That’s too bad. I’d have given you two stirrers to use like chopsticks.”

Me: “I’d have taken that, too!”

(The cashier laughed and went off. I settled back to my seat, and about a minute later he showed up with something wrapped in a napkin.)

Cashier: “Now, you can have this if you promise to give it back to the kitchen when you’ve finished.”

(He got me a spoon! It’s such a small gesture, but it meant a lot after the few weeks I’ve had. The kicker? I was reading Not Always Hopeless during this story…)

Kind Strangers Kindness

A Nugget Of Kindness

| USA | At The Checkout, Kind Strangers

(I always heard of people paying for others, but never believe it until it happened to me. I moved to a place where people aren’t very friendly, they always stare at me like I’m from outer space. I’m considering moving back home when I go to the drive-thru.)

Me: *pulling out credit card to pay* “Here you go.”

Cashier: “Your order is nuggets and iced tea, right?”

Me: “Yes.” *trying to hand over my card*

Cashier: “We don’t need it.”

Me: “Huh? I don’t have to pay.”

Cashier: “She paid for you.”

Me: *blank stare* “WHAT.”

(I finally got my wits back and tried to see if it was someone I recognized, but all I saw was an unfamiliar face staring back. Well, thank you, whoever you are! Maybe I’ll stay after all!)

Kind Strangers Kindness

Kindness Is In The (Metro)Cards

| New York City, NY, USA | Kind Strangers, Transportation

On my way into work my automatic-refill MetroCard simply will not function (“Please swipe again… Please swipe again….”). I miss a train because of this.

So, I try my backup MetroCard. It is 10 cents short of a full fare so I go to refill it. The machine says that it can’t refill my card AND won’t exchange it for a new one like it normally would do, so now I have two defunct cards and really don’t want to spend $1 to get a brand new card to fill up. (The fee is encourage people to use their cards until their expiration date; you get a new one for free if yours is expired.)

Now I’ve missed two trains. Luckily there is an actual human being stationed at the booth on the far end of the station — very rare in recent years — but he tells me that both cards are damaged and that the only way to get my money and a replacement card is to mail them in. So now I’m looking at missing a third train because I have to walk back to the machines AND I have to waste a dollar getting a new card. I know it’s just a dollar, but it’s the principle of the thing!

Then he says, “You’re on your way to work, right? Why don’t you just go through the gate and try to deal with this over your lunch hour?” And he lets me in for free! So now I’m late to work, but not as late as I would have been if I’d missed yet another train. Thank you, understanding MTA worker!!!

That night, I have to stay past nine pm at work and am finally heading home. Of course, I had no time over lunch to get a new card BUT I did find yet another backup MetroCard stashed away. Hooray! When I get to the subway station I see that the area before you get to the platform is packed and reeks of pot — I am very sensitive to smells so this is giving me a headache. A train comes in and a surprisingly huge number of people are trying to get through the turnstiles at once. When I finally get to swipe my card after being buffeted around by people going in all directions (I’m under 5′ tall; most people very much are not!), I find… that this backup one doesn’t work either.

Fighting my way back through the people I have now held up, and missing a train, of course, I go to the MetroCard vending machine and miraculously it works correctly and lets me exchange my apparently expired card for a new one AND to add money to it! I check it at the separate “check your card here” machine juuuust to be sure, just as another train comes in.

All is well so I again get in line to go through the turnstiles and behind me is the source of the pot smell: a somewhat disheveled young man. Now my eyes are stinging from the reek and I am decidedly grumpy. Eventually it’s my turn but I know all is well because the machines both told me it is. Then I see that the reason the lines are so long is that all the turnstiles are giving people trouble more often than not (“Please swipe again… Please swipe again… Go!… Please swipe again at this turnstile… Please swipe again…”).

Of course, mine is not one of the lucky ones. But then pot-guy says, from behind me with a friendly smile, “Here, use mine. I have a swipe!” I don’t want to take his money so I thank him and assure him of what the machines told me, that my new card does in fact work, and slide into another turnstile’s lane and try there… No luck. Pot guy says, “No, really, use mine!” still with a big smile on his face. We’ve already missed the second train but I cannot bear to fight backward through the crowd again so I accept gratefully and it works immediately. His card is the lucky charm!

I hand it back and… he gets “Please swipe again.” I feel terrible and told him so but without a care and with a smile and a wave he says, “No problem, man!” and slips back through the crowd toward the machines to see if he can improve his luck.

Thank you, mysterious pot-guy! You gave me a headache in one way but REALLY eased and even worse headache and let me finally get home.