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On an early February evening, we arrived in San Diego seeking respite from well-below-freezing temperatures back East. Our first impression was of pleasing warmth, soft breezes, palm trees, bougainvillea, and hibiscus.

Then there were unexpected, time-consuming difficulties at the airport with our pre-booked car and gaining access to our Coronado island lodging. It was 10 p.m. when we were settled. By then, we had been traveling 14 hours. We were hungry and tired. Our concierge said the only possible sources of food at that time were on Orange Avenue. We took that advice.

Night and Day Café

847 Orange Avenue, Coronado

On Orange Avenue, we saw a small neon “Open” sign. It was the Night and Day Café — open from 6 a.m. till midnight every day. Inside, there were a couple of small tables, a long bar, and a large grill. The chef and his helper, both in red shirts, bustled around the grill. No one else was there. With some help from the chef, we selected two shrimp burritos, and we sat at the bar watching him cook.

Then a tall Denzel Washington look-a-like in a leather jacket entered the café and spoke to the chef. We heard the chef say, “No worries. That will take about 15 minutes.”

The man stood behind us in the narrow space alongside the bar. He seemed to be listening to music on a headset. We assumed he was waiting for a takeout and paid no further attention to him.

The chef expertly plated our dinners. Gratefully, we began to eat. The tall man moved to the cash register. He handed the chef a credit card. Then he resumed his place behind us. We finished eating and asked for the bill. The chef smiled. “That’s been taken care of.” Noting our puzzlement, he explained, “The gentleman behind you took care of it.”

We were dumbfounded. Nothing like this had ever happened to us in the course of relatively long lives in several countries. We turned toward the man. He looked put out. “You should not have let them know,” he told the chef. We tried to press him but all he said was, “I wanted to do it.” Then his takeout was ready and he walked out with it in a plastic bag.

In answer to our question why, the chef shrugged and threw up his hands. “He’s just a nice guy. He comes in here and does that sometimes”. After a little more prodding, he added, “I think he’s a Navy pilot or something like that.”

We were indescribably buoyed by this act of kindness.

As we came out of the café, we saw a taxi stop on the street. Our benefactor got in and was driven off into the night. We never learned his name.

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