With all the digital ways to pay, there’s no app for human kindness

The man in front of me at a Cumberland Farms in Cape Cod placed his slushie on the counter, counted a few bills and told the cashier he’d be picking up my bill, too.

I don’t know why he paid for me. Maybe he saw me transfixed by the way he was counting his cash.

He reminded me of my late Grandpa Lenny, who would pay for almost every purchase by separating a few bills from the wad he kept folded up in his pocket.

When I returned to my hotel, my mom said that Lenny, too, used to pay for the person behind him as he went through the tolls in the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut.

The man in front of me didn’t appear to be wealthy. He wasn’t wearing a fancy suit, and I don’t think he was driving a sports car.

He was a contractor. A person, perhaps, with a knack for making houses and someone’s day.

But his choice of payment made me consider the way I pay for everyday goods and services.

As a twenty-first century millennial, I rarely pay cash. I pay for shared rides through the Uber app. When I buy coffee, I use the Starbucks app.

I wonder, though, if something is lost when we hold our iPhone up to the near-field transmitter and feel a shake of the phone confirming our purchase with Apple Pay. Had he not taken out of cash would he had done this simple act of kindness?

Everyday you hear viral stories about customers paying for other customers. One person pays for another and the next does the same.

So I did what I thought I should do: I picked up the soda of the customer behind me.

Then I thanked the man, and I left the store.

I don’t know if the woman behind me picked up the purchase of the person behind her.

But that’s not important.

Here is what matters: With all the ways to pay on your smartphone, there is no app for kindness.

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