What Goes Around

In Lincoln Park
Seattle, USA
April 16, 2009

Just as I finished filling up at the gas station on 23rd and Union another car pulled up across the pump. A man stepped out of the car and strode straight over.

"Could I give you 75 cents for dollar?", he asked.

I couldn't parse. Did that statement make any sense? My first thought was whether I was the unwitting subject of some psychology experiment. My second thought was to glance around and see if I was on some hidden camera.

The man continued on explaining:

"You'll come up a quarter short, but these machines at the pump take only paper money. I could go inside to pay with change, but I don't want to leave my daughter in the car." He gestured toward the back seat of his car, where indeed there was a girl of about seven sleeping.

"Sure," I said, taking his three quarters and handing him a dollar bill. "No worries."

I had all but forgotten about the exchange five minutes later when I pulled into a Starbucks on 23rd and Jackson. I had been to that location only once before, but the barista recognized me. "Braniac's back!", he said. (This particular barista is the sole person who has noted the resemblance between the corportate logo patch on my coat and the electrodes on the head of Braniac, Superman's android nemesis.)

After I ordered my coffee, he said something I didn't immediately understand:

"Hmm... I didn't punch the button on the register. So your coffee will be free."

It took me a couple seconds to realize he'd just done me a favor. "Oh... thanks!", I threw a couple extra quarters into the tip jar, not having to pay for the beverage.

Then I made the connection--how those very quarters had played part in a couple small acts of generosity--in under ten minutes.

What goes around comes around.