Thursday, September 3, 2009

How to make bad days better.

It's really quite simple. All you need to do is commit a random act of kindness, and let someone's gratitude lift your spirits.

As most of you know, the 3rd of every month is the day I pay rent. Well, I got off to a late start because of the dimwits in the rental office. You see, I was forced at one point to lay down $25 for an extra gate key so that someone could come by and care for Nike should I land in the hospital. (There's more to it, but I'll leave it abridged.) So, as this would be the last time I'm paying rent, and Nike is no longer here, I asked management several days ago for my $25 back. Their answer was, and this is an exact quote, "We don't do that." This was a rather stunning answer, because it left me to wonder why I would BUY a key for something I didn't own. All was not lost, however, because one of the leasing agents (the only guy working in the office right now) said he would look into allowing me to take a $25 credit on my last month's rent. I told him I would come by on the morning I left to get said rent, and we left it at that.

This morning, I went to the office to find out what the status was of the credit, and the male leasing agent wasn't there...only his female counterpart, who knows only one answer to everything. "No." Now, I could have gone off to get my rent as usual and be done with it, and hope that I'd recover that money somehow...but then these people don't care about their tenants; they only care about the money.

I returned to my apartment and made a call to the Federal Trade Commission to ask about the status of my complaint. There is no status. The FTC works on behalf of groups, not individuals. Why they didn't tell me this when I filed my complaint in July, I have no idea.

My next call was to the Arizona Attorney General. This time, instead of allowing the automated phone system to push me into a corner, where I would sit on hold eternally without any help, I just kept pressing zero until a person answered. This person directed me to Neighborhood Services and wished me luck.

Neighborhood Services told me that if I walked in before 3:30, I could sit down with a counselor and discuss matters. This left me with a choice: go see them, or make my run to get the rent. Although the amount of money is relatively small, I was officially tired of being pushed around by the management here, and so I ventured out into the heat to visit their offices in city hall.

By the time I left my apartment, it was 1:00 PM. It was too late to get anything done but this task. The result was a foul mood that dominated my every thought. Over a mere $25, I wanted heads to roll. If I had ninja assassins at my disposal, I would have dispatched them to eliminate just about anyone who had irritated me in even the slightest way to date. "When I was five, a girl threw a rock at me. It missed. Find her and kill her anyway!" I was that grumpy.

My travels involved two bus rides. And as the first bus dropped me off, the second bus was taking on passengers. Unlike others, who could run to catch that second bus, I resigned myself to waiting for the next. I wouldn't even get near the bus before it was ready to roll, as this was a "cane day." (Need my cane to get around, unfortunately.)

Okay...With a wait ahead of me, I decided to step into the gas station at the intersection and grab a cold drink. As I was leaving, an older man asked the woman behind the counter if they took food stamps. She told him they didn't, and he was right behind me once I was outside the store.

Me: Hungry, huh?
Man: Yes. (And he looked it.)
Me: What were you going to buy if they took food stamps?
Man: I was going to get a hot dog.
Me: (after a moment's thought) Well, I've been homeless and hungry in the past myself, so let's go back in and get you that hot dog.
Man: (completely stunned) Really?!? Thank you, sir!

Once back inside, I also told him to grab a cold drink. It was entirely too hot to go without fluids today. His purchase cost under $3, and the man just couldn't believe someone would be this kind.

After we exited the store...

Me: Okay...Now that you're fed and watered, I'm going to ask something of you. Okay?
Man: (hesitantly) Ummm...I guess.
Me: It's simple. The next time you see someone in need, and you can help, do so. Got it?
Man: (grinning) Deal!

Helping that homeless man - and one could easily tell he was homeless - turned my mood around for the rest of the day. Even after I was told that I had little in the way of legal recourse when it came to fighting for my $25, I was still in a positive frame of mind. I sang the chorus of "Looking for an Echo" in the cavernous lobby of city hall (which made one woman smile as I left the building), brought a smile to a woman coming out of a driveway as I demonstrated my ability to occasionally be a courteous pedestrian, and, while exiting my final bus on the journey home, told a young woman that she was absolutely stunning. (I saved the compliment for when I was leaving so as not to appear to be flirting.) Oh...and before reaching city hall, I made a teen couple laugh by telling them they were entirely too cute together.

I'm paying a price for having wandered down town Phoenix. My feet were all but screaming for me to get off them by the time I hobbled into my apartment. Still, I made the day better for people I didn't even know. I'm still a bit annoyed about the $25, and I'm going to have to go out again tomorrow to get the rent a day late...but the utterly foul mood I was in has been replaced by spreading a few smiles.

I should do this more often. We all should. The world would be a far better place if we'd all commit random acts of kindness.

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