Yesterday, I finished a meeting in Ponce City Market around 10:00 a.m. Most mornings by that hour, I’ve consumed one or more cups of coffee. When the meeting completed, I hadn’t had any coffee yet — an oddity. Leaving the meeting, I proceed to Spiller Coffee located right in the middle of the food hall, order and wait.
As I’m waiting, a man in his late 40’s or early 50’s comes up to me in a long jacket to his ankles, tan face, sharp, blues eyes, and a graying buzz cut.
He asks in a real Southern accent “Do you know the Atlanta area well?” and sways back while asking like he’s timid.
I said “a little bit, why do you ask?”
“I’m a contractor from Greenville and just come back outside to my truck this morning only to see that there was shattered glass all around floor. I’m so damn upset. I’m a former Marine. I called the Police, and it took them 4 damn hours to get here. I’m trying to file a damn complaint to whoever will listen around this place.”
I responded, “I’ve had my car broken into a few times around here and I feel for you.”
He went on, “I tell you what, if I’d a seen whoever stole my stuff I’da shot em and been on CNN tonight. My ID and wallet, gone. I’m just so pissed!”
At this point I’m trying to put all the pieces together. Why was he in Atlanta? It’s only 10:00 am? What was his truck doing at 6:00 am around Ponce City Market that early? He was in town from Greenville? What’s under that coat? Am I getting swindled by a pretty convincing storyteller?
He continued: “We all know this time of the year, there’s nothing but robbing, stealing, and killing around here.”
He was doing his best not to disparage Atlanta the city.
“I’m just still so damn offended by the cops and how long it took them to come to my truck after I reported it. Then I went across the street to the bank and tried to get a Western Union but they needed some form of ID so here I am stuck and in need of diesel gas to get back to Greenville.”
“Well how much gas money you need to get back? 10 bucks?”
“$20 should do?”
I’m probably getting swindled.
I didn’t have any cash on me so I told him I’d go to the ATM machine and get him a $20. We walked around the corner. He stood about 20 feet away from me.
While I’m typing in my number, I’m second guessing everything.
I’m getting swindled.
As I’m wondering and typing my passcode, he talked about the type of tools he got stolen and said “you can’t buy them anymore…but the good news is they didn’t get all of em.”
I’m still reluctant but he has me hook, line, and sinker. As I give him the $20, he says “thank you so much for this blessing. Merry Christmas and I will pay you back by paying this forward.”
I don’t know if he’s going back to Greenville, if his truck was broken into, if his tools and wallet were stolen, if he walked across the street to try and get money, if he really needs diesel or not, but I do have faith in the human spirit. Around this time of the year, it’s worth $20 to a stranger who likely had a tough morning one way or the other.
There had to be a reason I didn’t drink coffee until 10:00 a.m., right?
Update: The responses from this post have been fascinating. I had breakfast with a friend the other morning. I was telling him about the scenario as he does not read this blog. He stated: “you’re not going to believe this, but the exact same guy came up to the me yesterday, in the Home Depot Parking lot (which is right across the street).” We exchanged the exact same stories, dress, etc. As noted, I got swindled. I appreciate the comments below and they fall in line with my sentiments either way.