"Blogging isn't journalism, it's graffiti with punctuation."

This is how I pay it forward

Something strange happened to me last week, which propelled me this week to bleed. Literally. But it didn’t hurt. In fact, it felt pretty tingly.

Here’s what happened.

Last week I was headed to an event in my grandmothers car. Lately I have had a distaste for driving. I prefer public transit and cycling, but because I live uptown, when I’m in a hurry or running late (which is often), I grab Sitto’s car (“Sitto” is Arabic for granny) and zoom downtown. Transit would take about 1hr 15mins, and cycling would take 90 mins to 2 hours (and leaving me rather sweaty in my cocktail dress and pumps). Driving takes maybe 20 minutes, but I have had several bad experience with traffic cops and traffic court lately that makes me hate getting behind the wheel.

What I hate most about driving is looking for parking. It’s expensive and it’s hard to find. Luckily on this evening I found a spot in a parking lot on the first try, but as I approached the metre to shove in my hard-earned twoonies and loonies, I noticed something strange.

Here in Toronto, when you fill the parking metre, a computerized ticket slides out the bottom and you place it on your dash. As I exclaimed to no one but myself how expensive the price of parking was at this particular lot, I noticed that a computerized ticket was already sticking out of the bottom slot.

I retrieved it and visually scanned it. Usually people discard their expired tickets in and around the metre, so I was expecting more of the same.

But no.

This was a ticket that had been fully paid for, and just left there. It hadn’t expired. In fact, it was valid until 7AM the following morning (12 hours later at this point).


Sometimes, people who swipe their credit cards in the metre think that because it’s taking so long to authorize, the transaction didn’t go through, and abandon the metre. So I scanned the ticket to look for credit card details.

There were none. This ticket was paid for in cash.

So there were three explanations. Either the person who paid for this ticket was horribly inept and baffled by a simple parking machine with clear instructions stickered to it, or this was part of a sting operation/hidden camera show to catch people red-handed taking other people’s parking tickets … or, this was some kind of pay-it-forward act of kindness from another person in my little city.

I spent about 5 minutes looking all around and over my shoulders for an unmarked cop car or a hidden camera crew to no avail, so I ruled that out. That left either someone’s stupidity or someone’s kindness.

And because I like to believe in the inherent kindness of strangers à la Blance duBois, I chose to believe the latter.

I put the ticket on my dash and enjoyed free parking all night.

I kept thinking about this for hours and hours after the fact. Well into the next day and night. It even kept me awake.

I like the pay-it-forward ethos and practice, although I haven’t actually put it into action, as far as I can recall, since I lived in Quebec as a little girl and left money purposefully behind in a park so that some other kids might find it.

I was jonesing for another opportunity to pay it forward, but wasn’t sure how.


As you guys know, I am embarking in a few days on a huge transnational extravaganza to Asia and Europe, so all of my money is currently being funnelled into those activities. So my pay it forward would have to be something beyond the realm of consumerism.

Besides, as the late great John Lennon said, you can’t buy me love.

I struggled with what I could do for days until one night I was engaging in my usual night time ritual of watching Christopher Hitchens debates on YouTube whilst doing Sudoku (both are exercises in improving your brain power, believe you me), when Hitchens proclaimed in one of his debates that his admiration is reserved for people who do good for their fellow human beings for the sheer joy of giving, rather than those who do it in exchange for prosthelytizing about their religion or out of fear of hell and the wrath of God. He said that one of his ways of doing such good was to give blood. He said that it was something that gave so much to your peers, whilst not really taxing you at all seeing as how your body replaces the blood anyway.

So at 11 o’clock at night, I called the Canadian Blood Services, made an appointment, and a few days later went into one of their clinics and donated a pint of my blood. I also signed up to be on the donor list for bone marrow and stem cells.

Okay, maybe the paid parking was just left there by a neurotic space-cadet who had no idea how to navigate even the simplest of tasks. If that’s the case, then they are probably horrible drivers. Horrible drivers cause accidents. Car accident victims almost always need blood transfusions.

The system works.

If you’re reading this, please consider this your invitation to pay it forward in your own way to your community.

And if you do, please let me know how you get on 😉


***The first photo at the top wasn’t actually taken as I donated blood. That was taken back in 2008 when I was hospitalized for three days for acute tonsilitis and glandular fever in London, England. You can read all about that clusterfuck here!

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