a random act of kindness

I had a bad day today. A bad day on top of a monumentally stressful week that included the loss of an old friend to a tragic illness and the loss of a new friend to a tragic misunderstanding. The kind of bad day that starts out when someone you really care about finds a little knife in your ribs and twists it around a bit; a day that continues with someone else threatening legal action against you; a day that then throws in a gastrointestinal illness to make doubly sure you can’t shrug any of it off. The kind of day where all you can do is escape.

Escape, for me, is often a little Mexican food diner near Sac State called Mexico 70. I first found it while driving around jonesing for a burrito back in 1996 when I was moving to Sacramento. I’ve been going back ever since.

I threw Matthew in the car and we headed there, craving one their awesome chili rellenos with some homemade tortillas. But on this kind of day, it was not to be.

Mexico 70 is closed. Their main sign is gone. A small hand-written sign in the window said they would be closed for four days. I hope that’s all, though the place currently has a forlorn look about it. If the closure is permanent, they will be missed.

Tired, hungry, disappointed three-year-old. Rush hour traffic. We’re setting up for a worse-than-average preschooler meltdown, with Daddy’s reserve almost gone. In spite of having seen Supersize Me just a couple of days ago, I suggest Chipotle, a unit of global megacorporation McDonalds, and Matthew agrees (on the condition that we eat there).

Traffic is bad. (Relatively speaking — I am from Orange County, and I can assure my fellow Sacramentans that traffic here is never “bad” in the OC sense of the term.) Matthew’s synapses are visibly beginning to fire out of sequence. The line is blessedly short, and the helpful and friendly staff have the burritos prepared in an instant. That same instant in which I discovered that my wallet was missing.

I asked the cashier to wait while we checked the car. No wallet, and no hidden rolls of Benjamins. Matthew was approaching criticality. I asked the cashier if she could hold on to the burritos while I dashed home, knowing full well that the normally ten-minute trip would take twenty (each way) at this time of day and we would be in full preschooler core dump before we got back to our cold and soggy burritos. The cashier said “we’ll take care of it this evening.” I thought, at first, she meant they’d take care of the food while I got the money, but no — she handed the precious burritos over to me.

That little act of kindness cost Chipotle (or the employees — I’m not sure who was planning on covering for me or how) very little. In fact, it cost them nothing since I dropped by later with a wad of bills to express my gratitude. That small act, though, made one little boy very happy, and reminded a cynical old man that kindness to strangers can still be found in our world.