My family and I got back from a Florida beach vacation a few days ago. We spent a week in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area. We saw “Hurricane Simulators” at various tourist sites. Of course, it’s nothing like a real hurricane. In fact, a hurricane machine for fun is probably offensive to people who have been through an actual hurricane. Nevertheless, my son, being a typical 7-year-old boy asked to try it every time we saw one. I used my stock answer, “Maybe later.”
So around day 4 of our vacation, I finally agreed. We were at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. I’m not sure why I decided to say “yes” at that moment. Perhaps I figured, what’s another $2 with all of the money we’ve spent on this trip? (By the way, we had another opportunity the next day while waiting in the extreme, stagnant, humid heat for our dolphin-watching cruise. This time, I decided to join the kids, and it was glorious. The coolness of the wind stuck with me for a while, even after leaving the simulator).
I was digging through my camera case, which doubles as my purse while on vacation, for a couple of singles. I had put one into the machine, and had just found a second when a stranger put a dollar in front of me. I said, “I’ve got it, but thank you,” as I fed in the second dollar. He said, “Well, my brother paid for mine.” I responded, “And I just took away your chance to pay it forward. I’m sorry.”
He looked a little disappointed, but not annoyed. He seemed to delight in watching my children’s enjoyment of the simulator. Everyone did. There was a small crowd watching, and I heard someone say, “She likes it!” about my daughter.
In retrospect, I wish I had handled the situation differently. While I was already feeding money into the machine before I understood what he was trying to do, I could have done something to continue the string of paying it forward, instead of abruptly ending it. I could have offered to join a dollar with his, and we could have given our $2 to someone else in the small crowd. But, sadly, I didn’t think of it until much later.
I feel a little sad about this missed opportunity. Of course, I can’t change it now. But, it does inspire me to look for some chances to pay it forward in the future.