I was in the Atlanta airport on my way home from a business trip and I saw an African-American man in my gate area who looked very familiar. He was wearing a suit and sunglasses indoors, which is always a little unusual, but not as much as it used to be. At this stage of my life I won't intrude by marching up to this fellow or anyone else and starting the "don't I know you" scenario, so I continued to glance in his direction to see if he might do or say something that might ring a bell. No bells. He passed me as he boarded the plane after me, and, again, I drew a blank on how or from where I might know him.
The answer came this morning, as he appeared on NBC's "Today" show reporting about something from my home state of Kentucky. The minute his face appeared on screen, I smiled and nodded. Another mystery solved!
Not far different from that was something that I experienced in New York a couple of years ago. I was in town to visit a client in early December, and had some time before my outbound flight. My client suggested I go to Rockefeller Center, as the traditional Christmas tree had been erected there and there was enough of a nip in the air to make it really feel like the holiday season. Sounded like a good idea, so upon leaving his office I got a cab and made my way there to see the sights.
I was walking outside just taking in the scenery and in the crush of people a man and I gently bumped shoulders. He apologized, and so did I, and then I realized that I recognized him from, again, television (I swear, I do more than watch TV, though this entry isn't making my case for me). I simply said, "You're ____, aren't you. I like your work." He was at the same time surprised to have been recognized (wearing a stocking cap doesn't exactly make you recognizable) and appreciated my having done so. We talked for about ninety seconds, shook hands and wished each other a nice holiday season. This man isn't exactly famous, but his face is seen regularly, so it was still kind of interesting.
Happens on airplanes and in airports more than anywhere else. I chatted with a college basketball coach on a plane leaving New York once, as I happened to be sitting next to the restroom and he was in line. Our eyes met, I said "You're ___," he smiled, he asked where I was from, and we shook hands and then he talked more about MY alma mater than the school he coached!
On a single trip where I connected through Chicago's O'Hare Airport I saw the actor Kevin Spacey riding one of those courtesy carts (you know, the big golf carts with the annoying "beep beep beep" that there primarily to help elderly or disabled people navigate the maze that is a large airport) and smiling and waving to everyone, and then on my return trip through the same airport I saw comic actor Bill Murray with some family and friends, having come to town for a Cubs playoff game. He posed for pictures with countless people and did NOT use the courtesy cart, so he gets extra points from me.
One more, and then I'll stop. The Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky airport used to operate a freestanding terminal that required a bus to take passengers from the main terminal building to and from it. This building was the terminal for regional jets, which are smaller and don't go quite as far as larger, more traditional airliners, but they're a necessary evil when you live in an area with a somewhat smaller airport (I ALWAYS fly a smaller plane to a bigger airport, then connect to my final destination on a larger plane).
Anyway, I was walking from my plane into this smaller subterminal and a little girl of seven or eight years of age walked right into my path and we bumped slightly. She politely and profusely apologized, I smiled and asked if she was OK. She said she was, and apologized again, and then told me to have a good trip. I smiled and wished her the same. Five minutes later, standing on the shuttle to the main terminal, the little girl again appeared, and I teasingly asked her if she was going to bump into me again. We both laughed, and then I looked up next to her and her father was standing there. He is a fairly well-known actor who's appeared in movies and television for some years, garnering Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. He could see that I recognized him by my facial expression, but I decided to simply compliment him on how polite his daughter was, whcih clearly delighted him.
For the remainder of the eight-to-ten-minute bus ride was exchanged small talk about travel, airports (he expressed surprise at the shuttle bus, saying he'd only seen that at an airport in Italy), and I then asked where they were heading. "Home," he replied, adding that home was Park City, Utah. He asked my destination, and while I can't recall where I was heading, it was for business, so that probably meant a far less exotic locale. As the bus stopped both he and his daughter wished me a good trip, and I returned the farewell. Nice people, I thought.
Most people are, as it turns out. In situations like that, we all have a reason to be coming or going, so why not be polite and decent while you're at it?