Thursday, August 26, 2010

The people you meet

In my travels for my job I often find it interesting and a pleasant way to pass the time when I meet new people.  And I'm not one of those who interrogates his seatmate every time I get on a plane....I've been victimized by enough of those to last me a lifetime.  But I just returned home from a business trip and found a couple of the people I encountered to be interesting.

For example, on my flight home the lady who was scheduled to sit with me spoke up, politely, and asked if Lexington was home for me.  I answered that it was, and then asked her the same question.  "Louisville," she responded, and that led to about fifteen minutes of chatting about airports, travel, jobs, etc.  Turns out this lady is the mother of three, ranging in age from 17 to 9, was in the ministry (!) for seven years, and now is in marketing for some sort of collective buying cooperative that sells primarily to non-profits and church-related entities.  And we also established that she, as I, matriculated at the University of Kentucky, graduating in the same college (Business and Economics) as I, but seven years later.

The best part about this chance encounter is that our chat ended when the plane took off and we both settled in for our flight (Atlanta to Lexington, only an hour flight), I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and fired up the iPod, and she reached for a book.  No pressure to continue talking, no one got their feelings hurt, pleasant conversation, wished each other a good evening, and went our separate ways.

Same trip, first flight yesterday (if you live in Lexington, there are almost always two or more flights to reach any given destination).  Changed flights on very short notice to get home early (thanks again, Delta!), so I was stuck with a window seat on a commuter jet.  Cramped for a guy my size, but doable.  Anyway, a soldier boarded with his enormous standard-issue backpack.  I asked him if he was coming or going (meaning to or from active service) and he explained that he was heading home to Utah.  We'd just begun chatting when the ground crew called his name and he arose as though he expected the call, said, "Well, I guess I'm not going home after all" and left.  Left me with a vacant seat, for which I was grateful, but I would probably have enjoyed more conversation with him while waiting to take off.

Once, many years ago, I was on a plane home from Richmond, VA, where I'd traveled for a job interview with a company for whom I really didn't want to work.  But I'd just been laid off from a job and was feeling the pressure of locating a new opportunity.  Happened to sit with a gal who simply commented that it looked like I had a lot on my mind, and so I discussed briefly my reason for being in the air, etc.  I remember so well her advice---"Never settle."  Good advice if circumstances allow.  The other thing that stands out is that she was not quite five feet tall but insisted on storing and retrieving her massive computer bag from the overhead compartment without assistance.

And in a business context I met about a dozen people with whom I was not previously acquainted on this trip.  Learned a lot about people's feelings about grown children who return home after a divorce, post-partum depression, how readily some people will allow a two-year-old to sleep in their bed, that racing midget cars is an all-consuming passion for some kids and their families, and so on.

The next trip may hold more possibilities.  Or not.  I suppose that's the fun of it!

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