Yesterday my dissertation adviser came over to visit with me, with his 10 years old grandson in tow. We had lunch at a restaurant across from the Stony Brook Railroad Station. While we were eating, in came a black woman who sat at the next table. She asked whether I could order lunch for her. I told her that the servers could speak English. She said no, she wanted me to buy her lunch. Okay, I said, finally understanding her meaning.
When I first came over to the United States, an American roommate told me that I should not give cash to beggars, but I’d much better give food. For with money, they could potentially buy drugs, and that would not be what I wished for. But food could not be changed for anything illicit. In this case, for me to buy her lunch, I thought, would be quite reasonable. Only that I’ve never seen, nor heard of something like this.
So there we were, the three of us, eating and chatting, while she ate by herself at a nearby table. When she was done, she stood up, gave me a deep bow, said pleasantry loudly to everybody in the restaurant, and proceeded to leave. The server chased after her to hand her the check, and both she and I gestured for the server to hand the check to me. The check was for $13.52. In this restaurant many dishes were more than that, some quite a bit more! In other words, she was very disciplined when ordering food. I was quite touched!