A Seething Kettle of Prejudice

The following is a status update I posted to Facebook from the airport last night that has actually generated a bit of discussion. I’m curious to know what the folks here may have to say about it. . . .

From the “I’m probably just a cynical jerk” department: a couple years or so ago Julia and I were on one of our debaucherous weekends in Portland. Being the big spending foodies we are, we opted for dinner out somewhere we can’t enjoy in Missoula, which in this case happened to be the drive-thru at Jack in the Box. After the Jack Associate delivered our bag of food, he informed us that the person in the car ahead of us had already bought it for us. By then the person was long gone. I thought this anonymous gesture by an unknown was pretty cool.

Fast forward to yesterday. I’m in line at the Starbucks here at the SLC airport. As I trundle up, I realize that the guy at the front of the line had just concluded buying everyone in line’s drinks and pastries. So I had to listen to a chorus of, “Oh, thank you, sir!”s, blah blah blah for the next couple minutes.

So I’m all, “Oh, look at me, I’m so generous and I’m fit and everyone loves me!” wee wee wee as the guy walks away with his beautiful wife/girlfriend/sister.

By the time I got to the register (where I was forced to buy my own damn stuff), though, I was starting to question my knee-jerk reaction. So I ask: is the public act of generosity I witnessed any less gracious than the anonymous one I enjoyed, or is something like this kind of a pretentious move?

Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

5 thoughts on “A Seething Kettle of Prejudice”

  1. I see both sides, being the cynical ass that I am. But i’m also all for generosity even in it’s most narcissistic forms. There’s a great episode of Friends where Phoebe, ever the optimist, tries to prove to Joey that she can do something nice with no benefit to herself and he keeps shooting down her attempts. Whether its a tax write-off, more crowns in heaven, to alleviate societal guilt, or just that fuzzy feeling inside for doing something good, all generosity is at some level selfish. And if buying some people drinks and pastries is what this guy does it’s probably better than the other ways he could feed his narcissism. Like blogging.

    Also, you never know the long-term effects of that kind of generosity. What if one of those people are so moved they make a generous move someplace less high-end than a Starbucks and someone is helped with something more than just a coffee and pastry? The tail of bad behavior is quite long, but so is the tail of good behavior.

      1. I’ll agree. I’m a pretty cynical bastard myself, but I also believe that whatever selfishness might be involved (unconsciously nor not) in the act of being generous, it’s better than the alternative. And, just like you never know how far a bad deed may go go haunt you and others, you never know how much a good deed might mean to someone else.

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