This took place on Wednesday, December 5, 2012.
In between traveling from Helios to a new Panaderia in Garner, and then onto a Restaurant Supply store to find a small glass measurement tool, back to the coffee house and then a meeting at a potential spot downtown, which right after I met up with a coffee roaster friend to exchange coffee and grinders I happened to look down and see I was 40 minutes away from having to pick up Dexter from school. My “free” time was done. I hadn’t really completed anything, just more loose strings and new questions that I needed to get answered. Figuring I had 20 minutes to play with, I got off Western, cut over to Beryl Road and saw the new ReUseIt Store off of Beryl Road and Method Rd. Free Books! the big sign read. Just last night I was brainstorming and wanted to incorporate books, exchanging books, and even book clubs into the future cafe. And here it was, the beginning of collecting books! I didn’t expect much, a 40 foot row of old and tattered books sitting on a table outside the store with a blue plastic sheet barely covering them up.
After finally accepting one of the 8 or 9 The Purpose Driven Life books in a row, I finally hit the jackpot, On The Make: The Rise of Bill Clinton.
Yes! I then noticed some wood pallets at the end of the row and started to check them out. The owner of the store, Amin, came out and laughed and asked if I wanted those too. Yes. Yes I do. I explained to him that I was collecting wood pallets to reuse for the future cafe, and instantly he smiled really wide and told me he had tons of wood pallets he was going to take to the city dump, just like he always does, but that I was always welcome to them. Yes! Again! Amin said they were behind an old Food Lion in Garner, wrote out a very detailed map on a torn piece of cardboard and literally put X’s in different spots around the building where I could find old wood pallets piled up. This conversation lasted about 15 minutes, I thanked Amin, took his card, grabbed the 2 books, and headed over to Wade Avenue to pick up Dexter.
I parked where I normally do, in a small parking lot directly next to his school where you can get out of your car and walk up to the front gate of the school and wait for your kid. It occurred to me, I had never really asked permission from the owners to do this. I saw other parents doing it, so I did it. I followed the herd. The parking lot is small, maybe 5-6 spots, and the sign specifically states they are for the use of the business clients of Kitchen & Bath Environments, a small two-story home, converted into a showroom for clients to check out materials and products. The spots were without question, theirs. Yet parents, morning, afternoon, and into the evening would park in these 5 or 6 spots to drop off or pick-up their kids. Still on a high from my big Bill Clinton and wood pallet score it made me think maybe I should ask permission, if only as a formality. As I understood it, parents had been using that small lot for years without a problem, but does that make it right?
Well, I had 6 minutes before Dexter would be walking out, in a single file line and glassy-eyed. So I walked up the steps, opened up the door and was instantly greeted by 2 of the 3 owners of the store. I explained to them what I was doing there, told them I felt bad for never asking permission and just assuming it was ok for me to take up one of their spots every day. By the end of the conversation which involved talk of K-Cups (eww) and my future plans for the cafe, I ended up offering them a few pounds of roasted coffee to say thanks. They made sure I understood they were perfectly fine with parents parking in their lot and didn’t expect everyone to ask permission… but the coffee offer was quickly accepted. One light roast – ground, one dark roast -whole bean. The third partner didn’t drink coffee, only Diet Coke, which I took note of.
I guess, to be truly honest, I really went the extra step that day because Amin had been so gracious and thorough with his time and offerings (he had nice shelves too which he really wanted me to check out, he needed to get rid of them, but they would be perfect for a cafe, he said). I was kinda high on someone being generous, so it seemed natural for me to offer up beans for making my life easier 5 days a week. As I walked out the front door on my way to meet Dexter at the gate, the Diet Coke drinker stopped me and said, “You know, I don’t drink coffee, but I appreciate your gesture, you mentioned a cafe you want to open, we have some nice kitchen cabinets that are ‘returns’ in the back of the store, they are yours if you want them, just need to be resurfaced. My way of paying it forward I guess.” Yes again!!
So this morning, after dropping off Dexter and dropping off one light roast ground, one dark roast whole bean, and a lukewarm Coke Zero (sorry), I figured it was worthy of me getting home and writing about this series of events. Today I have 2 books to begin my library at the cafe, nice cabinets for the bar, more wood pallets than I know what to do with, and possibly even some nice shelves for coffee bean supplies. People who know me best are aware of my healthy skepticism regarding the bearded man guiding us all. But I am not opposed, in fact, have always embraced the idea of us being connected, that it doesn’t always seem so, but we are ALL the same neutrons and protons running into each other at extremely fast speeds, both on the molecular level and the human shell level as well. We can occasionally take a peak inside our combined massive human shell and slow it down just enough to see the perfect path everything is on. But rarely. Some people can do it more often than others, many may never see it. Some meditate, some work in jobs where they see and do it daily. Some hope to pay for it, some hope to get a break from it. It is overbearing, the knowledge that we are connected. I got a good look at it this past Wednesday, and it was awesome, everything slowed down, everything made me smile, I was in the zone, and everything was going my way. Everything I needed was there to be taken. And like meditation, as soon as I realized it, it was gone.
Not gone in the physical sense, the pallets and books and cabinets were mine now, but the natural high and knowledge of something bigger and more complex than I. And that was ok, to be in that moment all the time would become too much, glimpses keep you guessing, glimpses should be appreciated and talked about.
So there is my story for today, the Pay It Forward Story, or whatever you want to call it.