This week, Ritu asked:
What are the five nicest things you have ever done for someone else?
I’m the kind of person whose efforts at being nice always end up in micro-failures. I promise to send someone something, and then can’t find it; or pack it up and neglect to mail it for months on end; or find it, pack it, mail it, and it turns out I posed the wrong box, or the right box to the right place. I offer to carry an old lady’s groceries and then the bag tears and her eggs end up smashed all over the sidewalk. I offer to walk someone’s dog and get lost, and the dog gets a case of sunstroke during the long, long hours it takes me to fine my way back.
Maybe this happens because I don’t have enough practice at being nice. I have to admit, when I walk into a bookstore, the first thing I think about is what I would like to look at. When I look at a menu, I don’t worry too much about whether the person I’m with can eat any of the food, because I assume they’re looking out for themselves at least enough to honestly tell me if they can’t. I assume that kind of thing.
It gets me into trouble sometimes.
But I guess sometimes I am actually nice. Let’s see: when have I been, in memory.
Well, there was that thing with the copied music. One of the girls in the music department when I was an undergradI forget her name, but remember she worked at Value Village and started dressing impeccably when she got that jobexpressed curiosity in jazz and avant-garde music. I wasn’t particularly interested in her, though she was a pretty, smart, and cool girl. I don’t know why, I just wasn’t that interested; I say that so that nobody can really question my motives here, because really, it was a rare thing to find people who were genuinely interested in jazz music at that time in my life, so I copied a bunch of tapes for her. I also loaned her a few of my only-copies of things. I didn’t get most of them back, but I also didn’t much mind.
Hmmm… another music story. Once, a band I formed was supposed to play a small, piddly gig at the local jazz club in Saskatoon. We were opening for a marimba trio, of all things. A marimba trio! So anyway, I had three other guys in my band: a drummer, a bassist, and a guitarist with whom I’d been friends since high school. We practiced a few times for the gig, and I had no worries. But at the last minute, the guitarist didn’t show up. No phone call, no show-up and make an excuse: he just didn’t show.
The nice thing I did was that I didn’t old it against him. He was shy, felt the band wasn’t rehearsed enough, and didn’t want to do a poor job. I could see his point but knew we’d make it work when the time came. And in my opinion, we did. It was one of the better shows I’ve played in my life.
I’m a dreadful pack-rat when it comes to electronics. The only reason I don’t have the shortwave radio from my childhood, or the walkie-talkies that never worked in all my memory, or my first radio-only walkman, is because I’ve moved around so much that a lot of that stuff has gotten lost. But when Lime explained to me that her computer was using a certain notorious operating system from the 90s, after I bought myself a desktop computer, I gave my laptop to her. I knew she wasn’t asking for it, but I knew she would enjoy it in a way I could no longer do, so now it lives at her place.
One birthday a year or two ago, I held a party. I cooked Indian food for everyone, and we ate it and hung out. I think that was pretty nice: nobody I know outside of my family has ever cooked a meal for me on their birthdays. I felt like giving people the energy and effort expended in making good food, and I felt like inviting them to share it with me. I think that was pretty nice, though the gratification I got out of sharing that food was part of my motivation.
Lastly: well, it was something I did for someone secretly, and if I posted about it here, well, then it wouldn’t be quite so nice as it was when it was anonymous. Part of the point of being nice is not doing it for praise or reciprocity; since that person reads this site, I can’t really post about it here. So I’m keeping that one to myself.
For more (and probably better) nicenesses, check out the Friday Fivers in the appropriate dropdown menu in the sidebar.