Before I had this job, I worked in a barbershop. The kind of place that kept a cooler full of semi-craft beer for customers to help themselves to while they’d wait for their turn in the chair. As the day ran down, we’d make sure to restock the beer in the cooler so a cold supply would be waiting for the barbers when the last customer left the shop. We’d set to cleaning tools and counting money, and inevitably a barber would ask, “Cerveza?”
We’d respond. “Cerveza.”
Then the cooler lid would creak open and there’d be a pile of freezing cold Brooklyn Lagers bobbing in the remnants of the day’s ice saying, “Go ahead, you earned it.”
The beers were something nice for customers, a bit of extra hospitality on the barbershop’s part. For the barbers, they were something nice we did for ourselves at the end of a long day. Your shoulders have never relaxed so easily, with such relief, as they have after the first sip of a bracingly cold beer after nine hours on your feet.
But as much as a free beer was an expression of kindness—to customers or to ourselves—I learned from one of the barbers there how to take that gesture one glorious step further. I maintain it is one of the nicest, easiest things you can do for another person. And I give it to you now to carry out into the world as a beacon of goodwill:
When giving a beer to someone, open it before you hand it to them.
That’s it. It’s a generous communication of care and consideration done in the simplest of gestures that only a person with years in the service industry—especially a barber who is so attuned to knowing what a person needs and wants before they do—could think to pull off.
She’d go over and change the music at the end of the day, and ask the shop, “Cerveza?” and we’d answer “Cerveza.” She’d fish a few icy beers out of the beat-up cooler. Then, she’d snap a clean barber towel and wipe the cooler water and condensation off of each can. And swaddled like a newborn, she’d crack the beer open. The sound of it, the international indicator that something good is about to happen, would ricochet off the tile of the shop. And removing it from the towel, she’d hand the beer to me, mist still emanating from its opening.
It was one of the most beautiful, kind things a person had ever done for me.
Call it a minor act of compassion. A micro-altruism. A surprise you can give a person that’s so small, yet so pleasant. So seemingly easy, yet surprisingly thoughtful. It’ll make their day. Or their next thirty-seconds. And, they’ll thank you for it.
To do it, first, offer someone a beer. If they’re a guest in your home, do this when they walk in the door. If you’re at a larger gathering, and you’re ready for another, ask if you can get whoever you’re talking to another, too.
Then, go to the fridge, cooler, or bucket, and take out a couple of beers. Any kind will do. And without drawing much attention to what you’re doing, pop the caps off the bottles or crack open the can and hand it to whoever you’re sharing this beer with.
They’ll probably notice and say something like, “Wow, already opened. Thanks.” And you’ll say, “Sure.” They’ll smile. You’ll smile. And you’ll both carry on with your lives, now with a greater appreciation for each other and the security in knowing that we are all capable of doing kind things.
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