It turned out that I was right behind this young fellow when he ordered his burrito bowl. At every step of the ordering process his requests were prefaced with "May I have." He wasn't in a hurry, he knew what he wanted but he never deviated from using "May I have," at the beginning of his sentences. At the end, when asked if he would like his meal here or to go he said, "I would like to have it for dine in."
I've stood in line at this Chipotle a few dozen times in the years I've been in this neighborhood. The line has always had a widely varied demographic. I've seen children his age and people three times my age ordering. I've seen adults who were impatient, rude, crass. I've seen children who were unruly, ill-mannered or simply out of control. I've seen grown-up mothers lean over the glass sneeze guard to point at ingredients and exhort "More, I want more, give me more." I've seen people be talking into their cell phones gesturing in vague ways at the selection, then yell at the employee when they guessed the wrong ingredient.
I have never seen anybody as well-mannered as this young man-to-be.
When he finally reached the register and was given his total I told the cashier that it would be my pleasure to pay for his meal. The cashier stared at me, as did the young man. I explained, "You were polite asking me what time it was while we were in line. You were very polite when you ordered, more polite than many people I've seen here. Politeness is bloody rare these days, so you deserve to be rewarded." He thanked me, as did an older gent in front of him who may or may not have been a parent, guardian or family friend. It doesn't matter. I wasn't doing it to impress anybody around me, I was doing it to reward a virtue was see all too little of in today's hurried, me-centric society.
Okay, so maybe I did do it to impress something on someone. I did it to impress onto this future politican, this future mechanic, this future engineer that sometimes the world does reward us when we do the right thing -- even if that reward was just a free burrito bowl.
I hope it's an impression that lasts.