The other day I was paying our power service and received one of those unexpected surprises that make your day.
Three persons in front of me was this man; very dirty, skin and clothes. Ragged, painted pants. Very long and unkempt beard. He was wearing a dirty cap over his long, white, dirty and unkempt hair. And he smelled a bit like… someone who’s been sweating and hasn’t shower.
In front of me was this lady. Probably in her fifties. Wearing sport gear as if she had been on the gym. She kept turning around to look at me and I kept pretending I didn’t notice because I hate to talk to people in lines. I’m that hermit of a person who just won’t acknowledge strangers while waiting for a turn because this is Puerto Rico and saying ‘hi” will make you listen to the story of how her sister’s husband cheated on her with her best friend, including the details of the best friend’s diet. It has happened, trust me. Anyway, it didn’t work because again, this is Puerto Rico, so SHE TALKED TO ME ANYWAY. I was there looking outside the window and she was talking to me.
She turned around and touched her nose saying “it stinks here doesn’t it?” and gestured with her entire body towards the man that was now the next in turn to pay. (Oh, this is Puerto Rico, so there was only one person collecting.) I gave her a half smile that lasted 0.32 secs. It meant shut up in hermit. She proceeded to show me her bill and explain she had to pay twenty eight dollars which was ten dollars more than her usual bill. She whined a lot because of this. Power service here has skyrocketed this year so whining about the costs (of power and water and every other thing that the government provides) is what everyone does. I actually try to contrarest this on a daily basis, we can whine all we want but it’s not going to solve anything, so it’s better to focus on something positive instead. Look, the Christmas breeze is FINALLY here, it means we are not melting! HALLELUYA!
Then she asked how much more I was paying and I said the inflated bill (expected in every household) hasn’t come yet, but I have heard of some neighbors who are paying around ten dollars more so that seems to be the number. More whining was expressed. But while she was whining, the man, the “dirty” one went to the collecting window. He started the most lovely conversation with the employee about how pretty were her glasses. She told him the bill was seventy two dollars and change.
So the man takes money out from his pocket to pay and here’s where it got quiet in there: he had a pack, like a solid half an inch pack of fifty dollar bills. I don’t even know when was the last time I had a fifty dollar bill in my hand, probably because it was never, but the point is, everyone is thinking the same thing. People are all whining about paying ten dollars more, this lady had a new car, good clothes, expensive tennis shoes and she’s crying her eyes out because she has to pay ten more dollars. That guy clearly had to work hard for his money (the dirt on him looked like bits of cement and paint, construction?) and there he was, first having more cash than all of us together and secondly handing it over without any complain. In fact, he was more cheerful about it than anyone I’ve ever seen paying that service.
I went outside happy. I don’t even know why exactly, but somewhere in the middle of showing that lady in her face that he was more than she imagined and how simply cheery he was, I got happy about the whole thing.