I believe John Lennon was right, “instant Karma’s gonna get you.” I was 12 when I figured that out in the summer of 1975. I was in charge of my 11, 9 and 7 year old sisters while mom answered phones at the car foundry. I’d earned $4 from paid babysitting on the weekend, and so figured I would take my sisters to a matinee.
Each ticket was a dollar, which meant no money for popcorn, so we popped our own. We filled a brown grocery sack and took turns carrying the bag as we walked the mile to St. Andrew’s Cinema.
I waited in line while my sisters waited off to the side, guarding the popcorn from each other. “Four tickets please,” I said proudly as I slipped the bills across the counter. “That’ll be five dollars,” the cashier replied, looking down. “I only want four ,” I returned, strongly emphasizing the four. “That’s five dollars,” she replied, emphasizing the five, while pointing out a sign displaying the newly revised price of $1.25.
“But I only have four dollars,” came my less bold reply. I looked at the sign, then down at my money, and then back at her, thinking these looks would change things somehow. “Well then, you only get three tickets.”
I looked over at my sisters, and noticed for the first time that popcorn grease had saturated the double bagging. I felt a lump in my throat and tears welling up . “Well?” she snapped, “there is a line,” and with that, her hand waved at the line of people waiting in the heat. “I’ll take three tickets,” I said, nearly deflated, figuring my sisters could see the movie while I hung out in the drugstore across the way. My compromise netted me 25 cents in change, which boosted my spirits a little.
I handed out the tickets explaining that the price increase meant they’d have to see the movie without me. As I was telling them not to talk to anyone or go into the bathroom, a woman approached us. I was afraid she’d tell me they wouldn’t admit children under twelve unsupervised. “Here, take this,” she said as she handed me a ticket. “I didn’t know they raised the price either.”
I looked up at her face — she winked and smiled. The lump returned to my throat, making my thank you inaudible. I reached in my pocket and retrieved the quarter to hand to her. “Oh no, it’s my pleasure.” And she smiled, like it really was her pleasure.
As I returned the coin to my pocket, I realized we’d be able to go to the drugstore after the movie and buy some unexpected candy. It was with that experience that I began to believe that the measure you give, is the measure you receive. And on occasion, the measure returns to you heaping over like a cup of flour that hasn’t been leveled by the back of a knife. This I believe.
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