I had one extra museum ticket in my hand.
I didn’t ask for it. The ticket counter staff gave it to me.
Well, she didn’t exactly give it to me. She told me that there was a one-for-one deal to the museum.
I came to the museum alone, so I told her that I could just pay the full price of one ticket. I didn’t want that one extra free ticket to go to waste.
She looked me in the eye, before telling me that whatever I was going to do with that one ticket, it’d be up to me (a.k.a. it was none of her business).
I felt unsettled. In her mind, this ticketing lady was trying to be helpful in giving me a free ticket, but the way I saw it, she was serving me a problem on a golden plate.
She began typing into her computer to issue the tickets. What was I going do with that one extra ticket?
As if reading my mind, her computer went into a freeze, refusing to budge under her command. So, her next-counter colleague printed the tickets instead.
When her colleague handed me the two tickets, it felt like I had been cursed.
I walked away from the counter, thinking non-stop what to do with that one extra ticket.
Should I give it to one of the security guards? No, that’s silly – he’d have staff discount or gone into the museum a thousand times.
Should I throw the ticket into the bin? No, that’d be a waste. And cowardly.
I could pass this ticket to one stranger.
Should I leave the ticket at the counter for the next single person? Ah, good idea. I went back to the ticket counter and waited for my turn.
I glanced at the people joining the ticketing queue. Couples. Families with kids. Retirees. I was looking for that one stranger.
Then one single visitor showed up. There was a gap between her and the family in front of her, so she must be a solo traveler.
No, she looked like an angry middle-aged lady. I’d pass.
A while later, a young, pleasant-looking lady joined the queue. She looked friendly enough, so I approached her.
I explained to her that I had a free ticket and I was giving it to her. She offered to pay for the ticket instead. Having worried so much over the past ten minutes, it felt like a miracle to meet such a graceful human being.
We ended up checking out the museum together and exchanging contacts.
If people love free things (which people usually do), why did I freak out so much over giving out a free ticket?
Somehow I was worried that people would be cynical and reject my offer straight away.
Instead, that one free ticket became an opportunity to connect with a stranger. A fellow human being whom now I call a friend.