Krishi Saripalli


An Unexpected Encounter With Two Kind People


A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I drove out to Napa County to try drinking in a less sweaty and more legal context as recently-turned 21 year olds. We started our trip by booking a room on a quaint vineyard situated at the base of Mount Veeder. The room was part of a shared estate on a roughly 3-acre property complete with a pool (which were not allowed to use), picnic area and woods. For roughly three hundred dollars, the experience was well worth it, and far more reasonable than anything else we looked at during our week long search for semi-affordable stays in a very expensive part of the world.

We only had about 2 hours to settle into our new room before we hurried over to downtown Napa to make it in time for our reservation at Torc. As far as I can tell, Torc does not make any claims about belonging to a particular cuisine, but the easiest box to place them in would probably be New American. I'm hesitant to leave it at that because it usually conjures up images of steak and potatoes, when what we experienced was so much more. I think very few people are good at describing how good food tastes, and I am not one of them, so instead I'll leave you with the one picture I took during our meal.

Yummy Desert

As we got seated and ordered wine, a middle-aged couple siting next to us took notice of our date and asked if we wanted some pictures. We happily obliged, and watched as the man went outside of the restaurant in order to take a creative picture of us through the glass of the outer wall. We joked about how it was all just a ploy for them to steal my phone and run away, and them returned to our meals shortly thereafter.

The night went on and food started coming to our table, which along with the wine, kept us more than busy enough to forget the noise coming from the table on the other side of the couple. It wasn't until our glasses were empty and the food was gone that the screeching laugh of the two women sitting across from the couple began to become impossible to drown out. From what we could tell, it was two moms on a night out, enjoying way too much Chardonnay while bursting out laughing at things that no one else seemed to find funny. The couple, in all of their politeness, decided to make small talk with the two women when they inevitably introduced themselves.

Once plates started leaving our table, the couple apologized on behalf of the clearly drunk women, which was completely unnecessary but nonetheless a second hint that the people that we were speaking to were kind. I struck up a conversation with them after overhearing that they were from Washington state, where I spent a good amount of my life, to which they responded with genuine excitement. Both are investment bankers who were in Napa for a conference, which admittedly made sense given where we were. It turns out that they had family in the small city I was born in, and also have great memories of Lake Chelan, Snoqualmie Falls like I do. It was great to spend 30 second spurts talking, only to bump into a shared memory or food from the place that connected us.

They quickly paid for their meal and said goodbye to us before heading out to their car on the other side of the street. We took our time lounging around before finally asking for our check, only to be told that it had been paid for already by the couple. This had never happened to us, so it seemed like a bit a joke at first. Then came the guilt of ordering wine and three different desserts to wash it all down. We sat there for a few minutes figuring out what to do before racing out of the restaurant to see if we could find them. They were long gone.

For the last week, I've mostly just told this story to people to get their reactions at us getting a three hundred dollar wine and dine experience for free, which has been fun. But I've mostly been thinking about why someone might want to do something so generous in the first place. I'd like to think we're cool people, but we didn't really say or do much outside of making regular conversation and cracking a couple of jokes here and there.

You could chalk it up to rich people doing rich people things and that would probably be an acceptable answer. After sitting on it for a while however, I think I have a better guess. There's a critical point in people's careers (and lives), where if you're lucky enough, the utility of money rapidly declines and the paradigm of rapid growth and achievement gets tossed out the window. There is no promotion or bonus that can surprise you anymore, and you're suddenly left looking for meaning anywhere else. I'd like to think that they saw a younger version of themselves in us and decided to reward us not because of anything that we did, but because of what we represent. I acknowledge that in writing this, I'm making a lot of assumptions about these people and what they value, mostly because I have to, but I think that the point still stands generally.

Lately I've been reminded of the power of generosity and how much I owe to people who are in the later stages of their career. There are too many people to mention here, but most opportunities I've been given throughout my time growing up and as an early professional have only been possible because others, often older, have been kind enough to extend a helping hand. I've been dreading the fact that once I graduate from college, I won't be a "kid" that can shamelessly ask people for opportunities and have them take a chance on me. But after some discussion, I've realized that progressing into a career presents the opportunity to finally start taking the other side. I obviously have very little to give in the way of advice or free fine dining, but I'm hoping that at some point, someone younger than me might find a conversation with me valuable enough to reach out spontaneously, in the same way that I've done to hundreds (thousands?) of people.