Paper Towels

My work nights officially start with coffee.

That fateful night, though still nursing a week-old fever and flu, I decided to brave the rain to the café near my office building. The branch which I can say I am a regular was packed so I decided I’ll go back to this one I just noticed a few weeks back. I was drenched when I got to the coffee shop. Upon stepping in, one of the baristas greeted me though I barely heard what he said. My iPod’s volume was pumped up, and I was, as always, partying inside my head.

When I looked up and saw him smiling, I politely smiled back. It was a fleeting moment. He rushed somewhere near the sink while I stood in front of the cash register. My playlist shuffled to Semisonic’s Closing time as I was dreamily gazing at the menu, waiting for someone to get my order. I was caught off guard when instead for asking me what I wanted, that barista was handing me a stack of paper towels. I raised my gaze from the paper towels to his face. His smile was warm and genuine. I could not help but smile back. I said thanks.

I know baristas are trained to be Miss and Mister Congeniality, but sometimes one can’t just help but appreciate their warmness.

“Can you give me the first letter of your name, please? Just the first letter.”
Okay, he got my attention. I removed my earphones, and gave him my best what-do-you-mean stare. My not-so-better judgment told me to play along, so I did. He repeated his query, and so I answered back.


It took him a few seconds before he blurted out: “Hannah. I’m sure, it’s Hannah.”

“Nice. Thanks.” I smiled and handed him my cash.

Staying by the alfresco seating was a must because I was drenched. It was only then it dawned into me that he was the same barista whom I ordered from the week before. I remembered him because after saying I wanted a venti Cafe Mocha, he replied:

“Hot mocha, Ma’am?”

“Yes, please.” He then told the other barista who was then preparing my drink: “Hot daw si Ma’am!”

My middle name is dense, so my only reaction was: “Huh?”

Seeing the look on my face, that barista who took my order, again asked his colleague: “Diba?”

Snap back to the present — being Miss Dense Universe, I needed someone to explain to me what just happened so I texted one of my bestest beckies for back-up. All I knew was, the paper towel gesture was so sweet coming from a stranger so Ifigured I had to show my appreciation. I briefed my friend about what just happened and she replied: “Give him your card. Do it!”

I’m not that gutsy, so no, I did not give him my card… well, not directly. I decided to leave him a thank you note and my card on the table. No one can be prepared for moments like this. All I had inside my purse were a stack of coloured index cards and a box of tissue paper. I had to choose between the two, so I opted for one of the
index cards –a pink one.

Hurriedly, I scribbled:

The note was sitting in front of me, but I still wasn’t sure if I actually had the courage to leave it there. I do not do this often. I have not done this before — leaving some stranger a thank you note. As if on cue, he went out of the cafe to head to the store next door. He dropped by my table to say hi, and again, I responded with smile. Writing this now, I just realized I did not say a lot which is so not me.

I took that as a GO signal from the universe, so I left the note on table and decided to run away. Yes, I ran. As I was swiftly making my grand exit, I bumped into him, figuratively. He called me, said bye and take care. And again, I just smiled back!

While I worked the night away, I was replaying that scene inside my head and found myself smiling like a crazy person. Amazing how one simple gesture of kindness can brighten one’s day (or night, depends on your work schedule).

I therefore am declaring that I am a new advocate of doing kind gestures as well as appreciating simple but sincere acts directed our way. One thing though, it is up to the universe if he got the thank you note or not.

And note to self, I have to bring pretty notepads with me from now on! Spread the kindness. Spread the love.


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