The two men entered the coffee shop ahead of me. I was looking forward to a quiet lunch after a busy morning in the city, so I took little notice. They were well-dressed, and both carried the requisite laptop shoulder bags. The older one held the door open for the younger one, in a rather florid gesture. As I came in they were standing just inside the door, in quiet conversation. The older man was speaking to the other quietly, in a thick Eastern European accent. I waited in queue behind them, but seeing they were still in conversation, I ducked around them and grabbed my panini from the cooler. As waited at the counter I began to suspect Eastern Europe was a panhandler–his nice clothes and shoulder bag allowing him to operate around upscale coffee shops. The younger man-black slacks, open pinstripe, nice haircut–bought him a sandwich, a drink and a cookie, to go. As Eastern Europe left the coffee shop, he dropped the bag containing the cookie, and I hurried to pick it up and handed it to him. I came back to black slacks, and asked him about the fellow. “No, I don’t know him, and yes, he did hit me up for the lunch,” he said. That confirmed my suspicion, but there was still something odd about the man. “Gee, he looked well dressed,” I said.  ”I wonder if that was just a one-time thing, or if he’s really a panhandler.” Black slacks picked up his change and said, “I just spent twelve bucks to answer that question, and I still don’t know.”

Slacks sat down at a table with his sandwich and laptop. Obviously a businessman. Not flashy enough to be a realtor, maybe a consultant of some sort. I went to a table with my panini and newspaper. None of the articles interested me, and I kept mulling over the incident. It was by sheer random chance that slacks got the touch and not me; I probably would have turned the guy down. Or at the most bought him a sandwich, but not the drink and cookie. As I left, I walked over to slacks and handed him six dollars, saying, “let’s split the cost.” He thanked me, but refused the money. “That was an awkward situation, but you did the honorable thing,” I said to him. Slacks thought for a minute, and replied, “Well, it’s not that far from here”–pointing generally to himself and his laptop–”to there.”