Roy Exum: Let’s ‘Pay It Forward’

Friday, August 22, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

At 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, this at a Starbucks coffee store located at 2186 Tyrone Blvd. in St. Petersburg, Fla.,  an unidentified woman who was first in line at the drive-through window, politely told the drive-through window clerk she would like to “pay it forward.” The clerk checked the next order – it was a caramel macchiato – and the first customer paid for both her iced coffee and the macchiato for the unknowing soul in the next car in line.

When car No. 2 pulled up, the clerk handed out the drink and said, “The car ahead of you played ‘pay it forward.’ You don’t owe anything.” The driver paused and asked, “What did the person behind me order? I want to play, too,” and – with a delightful giggle, then played ‘pay it forward’ on the third car.

Soon the shop’s barista, Vu Nguyen, a popular 29-year-old store manager, manned the window, simply explaining to each new patron that there was a ‘pay it forward’ line going. He told each customer they were not expected to take part but that because of the car ahead, they owed nothing for their order. On and on it went until at 6 p.m., when an unknown lady demurred, saying she only wanted her order. It was free – of course -- and she was the 379th person to come through the drive-in on a very happy Wednesday before breaking the chain.

At 7 a.m. yesterday morning, there was a longer line than usual at the Starbucks on Tyrone Avenue. The driver of the very first car contained an eager soul who – before the clerk could even hand him his coffee--  blurted, “I want to ‘pay it forward!’” And a new day dawned on the now viral coffee shop. One car after another, all in the spirit of whimsical folly, until an unfortunate  guy named Peter Schorsch purposely snapped the string by alleging the ‘pay it forward’ was “a guilt trip,” in his opinion.

Peter, it seems, has a blog and according to the Tampa Bay Times, he published his version of why he squelched the ‘pay it forward’ game soon after he did so yesterday:

* * *

“What is not an act of kindness is what was happening today at the same Starbucks, where customers were being told that they had had their drink paid for and then asked would they like to pay for the drink of the person next in line,” he immediately wrote.

“That's not generosity, that's guilt. When a new 'Pay It Forward' chain started today, I had to put an end to it.

“So, yes, I drove to the Starbucks, purchased two Venti Mocha Frappuccinos and, even though someone in front of me had paid for one of my drinks, I declined the barista's suggestion to pay for the drink of the person behind me.”

* * *

While Peter is certainly entitled to his own opinion, I take a far different view of what happened at the coffee shop on Tyrone Boulevard. At a time when racial strife is grabbing our headlines, when a foreign enemy is beheading an innocent American and I watch his tearful mother on TV, and when we are numb from being beaten down by oppressors from every direction, I’ll guarantee you I am going to ‘pay it forward’ whenever I can.

Let’s listen to other voices besides Schorsch, who claims he gave a $100 tip “just to prove that I am not a 100-percent Grinch.” Oh, please. Lexie Kane, a 17-year-old student, said, “It makes your day better, I think,” and Tim Burnside came through the line twice on Wednesday. His reasoning:  “I think it is just nice to do a random act of kindness for someone you don’t know.”

Guilt? Schorsch didn’t explain how psychologically impairing he felt it would be to use the money you had intended for your drink to instead pay for a drink in the car behind you – after the car ahead had paid for you -- but he had his day in the sun, with the readers of the largest newspaper in Florida hardly recognizing him as a hero after he “had to put an end to it.”

It is hardly a stretch to believe it is people like Peter Schorsch who cause their direct counterparts to take such joy in ‘paying it forward.’ When Wednesday’s chain was snapped, allegedly by a woman who was unable to comprehend how the game worked, there were 378 who had taken part. When Peter stepped in during his crusade against “guilt,” another 260 had already been served on Thursday.

Those aren’t good numbers (638-to-two) for the Grinches of the world so let’s help Peter to better understand. Please ‘pay it forward’ every time you have the chance.

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