Day 3: Paying For The Car Behind Me

Today, in my pursuit to do something nice for a stranger,  I found myself feeling what I can only imagine a shady stalker must feel. Heck, I didn’t just feel it- I was a shady stalker. And I’m sure to anyone around me, including the Starbucks’ baristas, I looked like one too.

I have been hearing on the christian radio stations (Word FM in the Lehigh Valley and K-Love in State College) for the past few years how something nice you can do, a small act to show love for those around you, is to pay for the car behind you in a drive-thru. I’ve always wanted to try this, but I rarely go to fast food places or any other places that have drive-thrus, and when I do, I don’t usually use the drive-thru. So I never think to do this when I’m out and about. Yet, I’ve always had a nagging to do it.  It would just be a fun way to show someone that there is love out there in the world.

So today I set out to do just that. I’m not going to lie, I was so nervous! I realized that this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. What if no one drove up behind me in the drive-thru? I couldn’t just keep going around, ordering food until someone did! And knowing my luck, I would be paying for the super nice co-worker. You know, the one that offers to run and get food for everyone in the office, amounting to a $40 order? These were things I hadn’t thought of before, and they were now plaguing me. First, I had to think about where to go. The easiest place would be McDonald’s because it would guarantee a car behind me if I went during the lunch or dinner hour. However, I really didn’t want to buy anything for myself at McDonald’s and the bill could get higher at a place where people are likely to buy full meals (considering I’m unemployed, I can’t quite afford a $30 Mickey D’s tab). So I decided on Starbucks. I was overdue for my caramel light frappuccino and a Starbucks bill is most likely to be under $15, something I can afford.

When I reached the Bucks, I pulled into the parking lot and noticed there were a lot of cars there. Great. Prime time. I figured I’d have to wait near the drive-thru entrance and if a car started pulling towards it, I’d go in before them. This was a perfect plan, I thought, because there were spots directly across from the drive-thru entrance. I pulled in and waited. And waited. Finally a car drove into the parking lot and towards the drive-thru. I pulled out and started towards the ordering speaker…right when the car pulled into an empty parking spot. Ugh. I reversed back into my spot and waited some more. This happened, oh ya know, only about….four times! This was getting ridiculous! I felt like I was a jack-in-the-box. In and out, in and out. This was also the point I started feeling like a shady stalker. Or an “innocent” victim of a car “accident” that is hungry for insurance money.  I was waiting for the Starbucks’ manager to come out and tell me he had called the cops.

I decided I had had enough. No one was coming to this drive-thru and I wasn’t going to look stupid. I gave up on my frappuccino and left, prepared to give up and drown my sorrows in a McDonald’s ice cream sundae instead. When I was driving past the Starbucks I looked back for one last glance and wouldn’t ya know? I saw two cars in the drive-thru. The drive-thru that, until I just recently left, had been empty for ten minutes! Oh no they didn’t! I turned around and started back. This Bucks wasn’t about to pull one on me. I could be patient. I would be patient.  …So I pulled back into my spot and waited. This time, it only took about 1 minute before a car came, clearly headed for the drive-thru. This is it I thought, and pulled up. I was excited to see that it was just a young woman in the car behind me and by the look of the car she was probably in the same financial state I was- broke. I ordered my drink, got my price total and drove to the window to pay and receive. At the window, I nonchalantly, effortlessly-no, I haven’t been planning this moment for the past few days, why would you even think that?-told him I would like to pay for the car behind me as well, and handed him my card. Fortunately, he didn’t make a deal about it (he probably thought she was my friend) and only asked me if I wanted both receipts.

Mission accomplished! I drove out imagining the smile that would come to the woman’s lips when she realized I had payed for her. It was a nice feeling to know that I had made someone smile (hopefully the barista wasn’t a jerk, making her pay and keeping the money for his own free drink).  I want to encourage you to go out and do this. Or actually, don’t go out to do this (read the awkward situation above), but if you are ever in the situation, I encourage it. It is a small way we can be showing those around us love, no questions asked.

Tomorrow I am going to bake an apple pie!

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8 Comments on “Day 3: Paying For The Car Behind Me”

  1. Lynn Zeiner Says:

    Great! I have been hearing about this as well on the Word-FM (the “drive-thru” difference!) and think it is a great idea. I am so glad you persisted and saw it “thru.” I would love to know what the girl was thinking when she heard that her drink was paid for…

  2. Morgan Says:

    I am impressed! But what was the total?

  3. Yvonne Shorb Says:

    I heard abt this tonite frm Jen. Had I known I could have followed you through the drive thru, :-)

  4. Paul Nam Says:

    Hey, just wanted to let you know that’s a cool thing to do. It has definitely got me thinking am I trying to connect with people I don’t know or perhaps not even like and show them love? To me its another reminder that God is love. Not the type of love that simply feels good but the love that comes with truth.

  5. Geri Says:

    Love it! This has happened to Tony twice at McD’s (he prefers the frappes there to Bucks) and has come home with his chest puffed and a huge smile on his face, pondering if someone is stalking him! Now to convince him to pay it forward is another ordeal. I wll for sure show him this. I love your blog (and look forward to the book!)

  6. Liz Says:

    I did this yesterday… similar problem you had trying to get someone behind me. I finally just gave up and pulled in, hoping for the best… and it worked, someone came in behind me! Dunkin Donuts and the cashier didn’t make a big deal about it at all. It felt so good I did it again today @ McDonalds, and omg… the reaction from the cashier was so totally opposite. “Wait, you don’t know her? Why would you do that? Are you sure? You’re awfully friendly!” I feel like this is something I’d like to continue, not only but because it feels good… but almost as a social experiment to see how cashiers react.


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