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Journal

Just the Tip

I use Uber Eats at least once a day. I don’t really have a choice in the matter –I no longer drive or leave the house, and Lucy and I still need to eat, so I spend a lot of time on the app.

I make a point of looking at my driver’s profiles –not because I worry about their ratings. I don’t. People are dicks to service workers, and downgrade them over the smallest things, so I pay no attention to customer satisfaction. Instead, I’m looking at why they deliver. Often, the reasons tug at my heart: “I deliver to buy my kids food”; “I deliver to pay my medical insurance”; “I deliver to pay my student loans”.

Never is it “I deliver because I enjoy driving” or “I deliver because I enjoy smelling food I can’t afford to eat.”

My former wife would say I’m being used by Uber and their app that plays on my sympathy, for tips.

She loves to tell the story of a little girl we once encountered outside a record store in a run-down strip mall in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She was 8 or 9 years old and wore a filthy, fake rabbit fur coat. She had smudges of dirt on her face and was selling boxes of cold Krispy Kreme glazed donuts. I could have driven a few blocks away and got them fresh and hot off the conveyor, and for less than what the little girl was asking, but, much to my ex-wife’s dismay, I caved and bought four boxes –all she was carrying.

“You’re such a softie.” She said, on the way to the car. “Don’t you know it’s a scam?”

“I don’t care.” I said.

She gawked at my gullible stupidity. Why would I give away something that was mine to someone who’d done nothing to earn it but look sad? She couldn’t understand it.

As we were driving out of the parking lot, we were passed by a car at least ten years newer than ours, the hatchback stacked floor-to-ceiling with boxes of Krispy Kremes. In the back seat sat the little girl in her rabbit fur coat, in the front sat her parents, well dressed and fed, it would seem.

“See!?” Said my ex. “I told you! It was a scam! I bet you feel stupid now!”

For years she told the story at family gatherings. “What a sap I married!” she seemed to say.

But I was never ashamed, never embarrassed. Could I go back in time, I’d still give that little girl in the dirty fake-fur coat the money. It wasn’t about how much they needed it to me.

It was about how much I was willing to help.

I hope I never lose the willingness to help.

Tonight’s driver’s reason for delivering is: