I already know the answer to that question.
I got that nugget of insight back in my early twenties. I was at a store called Bi-Mart, in Roseburg, Oregon, making my weekly purchase of wonder glop to keep my jalopy running. As I was perusing the latest offering of miracle cures for worn out cars, a well dressed, middle aged woman approached me.
She seemed all in a dither, and I knew when she called me Sir something was really wrong.
“My husband gave me this list of tune up parts to buy for the car and there are so many options I have no idea where to start and my lunch break is only thirty minutes and could you please help me know which items to get,” was how it all came out.
Ever the teacher, I replied, “Um, sure.” And while inconspicuously glancing around for a hidden camera, I began with her list.
“First you find the make, year, and model of your car in the book. See, here. Then you go to the the air filter column, this is the one.” (Pick from shelf, drop in her cart.) “Then the oil filter column, it's this one.” (Pick from shelf, drop in her cart.) And so on down the list of parts.
I don't think she heard a word I said. Whatever model she was did not seem to feature an OFF switch. All the while I was explaining the parts book, she never stopped gushing about what a great help I was, and how remarkable it was that I had such knowledge of car parts.
I'm not sure if I just looked that stupid and it was a surprise to her that I was helpful, or if she was afraid I would turn into a serial killer without some positive feedback. In all it took less than five minutes. When it was done, she thanked me profusely and left me with, “You've done your good deed, now you can go out and be bad for the rest of the day!”
I was just as stunned as you are.
Since then I have often wondered, was she like that all the time, an over-the-top version of Mr Rogers? Or maybe it really was a hidden camera show and my response was just a dud. What if she had just escaped from an institution and I unwittingly became an accomplice? I may never know. But I do know this, every time I do a good deed, I have permission to go out and be bad for the rest of the day.