I’m in Forza, my local coffee shop, across from me and about 5 tables down is a woman who is having a shitty day. She’s obviously in distress, I think she’s been stood up, she’s dividing her time between doing her best to short-circuit a cell phone by weeping into it and doing an excellent impersonation of the most miserable person in the world.
This is tricky. I feel so sorry for her. I know how she feels, who doesn’t? While everyone else is ignoring her, I can’t. So I slowly wander over, you want to approach this carefully, you don’t want to make her day worse – “Hey…. I’m guessing …. you’re having a really shitty day…?”
“Yeah… I’m just waiting for a friend.”
She had been waiting for at least two hours nursing one coffee.
“Sure. I was just wondering if I could buy you a coffee or a pastry or something? Eating and drinking makes me feel better sometimes.”
She kindly laughed a little. “Oh no ..thanks. Thanks, really. People don’t do that these days.”
“I do,” I said, smiling. “Really I’d like to.”
“No. I couldn’t.”
“Ok … you really would be welcome you know.”
“No. Thanks though.”
“Hey, no worries”
She knew I wasnt going to bother her further… it was a no strings almost-random act of kindness. But she still said no. Why did she say no?
One of the big lessons learned at Burning Man was how to accept friendly gestures of help and gifts with good grace. There’s no need to reciprocate. Refusing to accept a gift denies both people pleasure… and who the hell wants to do that?
Her friend never came… and I know she could have used the coffee… oh well.