The other night, I took my friend Zheng , who was in town for a couple weeks for work, to the store, so he could buy some soda to keep in his hotel fridge. I ended up buying a can of Red Bull Blue Edition because a) the can looked nice b) it’s blueberry flavored c) did I mention the can looked nice?
At the check out line, there was an older hispanic woman and a hispanic teen in front of me. The teen was translating for the woman, and was asking the cashier to scan a bottle of Nice & Easy hair coloring, to see how much it would be.
“$7.44 with tax…”, the cashier replied. The older woman shook her head, and the boy turned to her, and pulled out some wadded up bills and some change. The boy counted $6.50. The woman said something to the boy, and shook her head again. “No, we don’t want it, “ he said. You could see the embarrassment in his face, or maybe it was disappointment.
“I have a a dollar. Here.” I pulled out a wadded up bill from my pocket. I handed it to the boy, who just stared at me. I handed it to the cashier. She just stared at me. “It’s cool. Here, take it,” I turned to the boy, “You have $6.50. Take this dollar, and you can get it!” I pleaded with my eyes to the older woman now looking at me, to take the dollar bill. It’s only a dollar, after all. What’s a dollar to me?
Actually, everything. Earlier that day, I did get paid for a large cookie order, and I did have enough cash on hand to splurge on a pretty can of energy drink. But that was really the maximum I could spend on petty, but pretty, non-essentials. The rest of the money I earned goes to gas (because delivering cookies while gas prices increase weekly isn’t cheap) and to ingredients/labels/packaging and the other overhead that comes along with cookie baking. That dollar could easily take me 6 miles to my destination, or buy a box of baking soda.
“Here, just take it.” At this point, I was handing this dollar to either the boy or the cashier, my hand swaying back and forth between the both of them. The older woman looked at me and smiled, then put her head down. She said something to the boy, and he turned to me.
“No, it’s okay. No, thank you.”
“But you just need a dollar. Here. You’ll have enough now.”
“No…we can’t. It’s okay. She doesn’t…we don’t need it.”
The boy wadded-up his cash, put it in his pocket, and the two of them left. The cashier scanned my Red Bull, the Red Bull I didn’t even want anymore, the Red Bull that didn’t even matter.
“That will be $2.67…”
“It was just a dollar…why didn’t they take it?” I implored.
“I see this happen a lot…” the cashier said, “…people come in, don’t have enough, and people behind them want to pay, want to help. But maybe they’re too proud? They don’t want charity. They’re embarrassed.”
I know those feelings. I was that old hispanic woman just a little over two years ago, at the very same store. It was a Monday morning in Winter. I had slept in my car after the previous night’s deliveries, because at the time, I had nowhere else to go. I wandered into the store to buy some motor oil; my car was down a quart, and you know, engine oil is the lifeblood of your car, so says the commercial. Despite being famished, I could only spend money on motor oil—my hunger was non-essential—and the rest needed to be spent on gas. I grabbed the oil and went to checkout. Whenever I stand in a checkout line, I always calculate, in my head, the exact amount of my total, and try to have it in exact change, to be prepared when the cashier asks for the amount. I know, I’m weird. And apparently, that day, I lacked rudimentary math skills, because I was short when the cashier told me the total.
“Oh…crap.” I searched my pockets for change. Pennies, a nickel…didn’t I have anything silver?? I checked my right front pants pocket again. I felt a small folded wad. A dollar bill! I quickly unfolded it, smoothed it out and handed it to the cashier.
“Darn…” I heard from someone behind me. I turned around to see some woman with her hand in the air, clutching a credit card. “I was ready to swipe my card for you!” She was an older woman, in a long coat, with a cart full of groceries. She smiled.
“Well, thanks! But I found a dollar! Maybe next time,” I said with a laugh.
It didn’t really hit me until I was under the hood of my car in the parking lot, listening to the oil gurgle into the engine. At that moment, I realized what that woman was going to do. I was nobody, a complete stranger, and this woman wanted to pay for my bottle of no-name 10W40 at 9:18AM. If I didn’t find that dollar, would I let her? I don’t know. Maybe I wouldn’t. Or maybe she would scan her card without me looking, and I’d be forced to accept her generosity.
That kid said his mom/grandmother/aunt didn’t “need” that hair coloring. I’m sure she didn’t. Her hair looked fine. But I’m sure to her, that hair coloring meant a lot. It would make her feel good about herself. And she gave it up, because she couldn’t afford it.
Nobody needs Rogue Bakery cookies, ever. No one in this entire world. But you know, sometimes, they’re a nice thing to have. They’re a treat. They’re a pick-me-up. They’re a ‘I had a really bad day so just give me a cookie’-thing. But some people don’t even consider getting Rogue Bakery cookies, even when they have the worst days, because it’s just not in their budget. It’s not a necessity.
This is what we’re going to do about that.
KARMA TIME: MARCH 27-APRIL 30
Rogue Bakery will give cookies to people that you think should have cookies. Maybe you know people who are having a hard time in life, and could use some cookies. Maybe you want to surprise someone…just because. Maybe you want to give a total stranger cookies. I want to know who you think should get cookies.
1) Fill out the contact form on the website, and tell us who you think would like to receive cookies. Every week, until the end of April, we will pick two candidates for a free cookie delivery or mail-order.
2) Every order of cookies that you place, to be delivered to someone other than yourself, will earn you a $5.00 coupon code that you can use in our online store.
3) Every person who submits the name of a cookie candidate, places an order for someone other than themselves, or gives a tip of any amount by purchasing the tip item in the online store, will be entered into a drawing for a free Rogue Bakery Cookie Club 6-month membership, an $85.00 value. The winner will be announced May 1st, 2013.
All three of these work for both local deliveries and mail-orders. Enter as often as you would like. Or I should say, give as often as you want to give.
Why am I going through the trouble of doing all this? Because I wanted that woman to have her hair coloring, just like that woman from years ago wanted to me to have a quart of motor oil, her treat. Because, while ‘local artisan cookies delivered to your door’ are one of the most non-essential items in anyone’s life, I do see the joy people get when they receive cookies unexpectedly. And it feels good. I understand that sometimes, the littlest of things makes our hectic lives a bit more manageable. And it’s those little things that keep us grounded, that remind us that despite the socio-economic walls that divide us, we’re all just people, who genuinely want to enjoy life, and be happy.