My best friend cancelled lunch with me one day. Instead, he was going to meet up with Sarah, a former undergraduate classmate of his. Sarah wanted to catch-up after more than 9 months of radio silence. She said it was "urgent" and needed advice on a situation with a boss.
Immediately following his lunch, my buddy called:
"Bobby, you won't believe what just happened?"
"I just had lunch with Sarah. I went 45 minutes without her asking me a single meaningful question."
"What did you talk about?"
"Her. You should try it sometime."
And thus began the game: How long can you have a conversation with someone without him/her asking a you single, meaningful question about you. We call it The Game. It's measured in minutes and Sarah was the big winner.
Everyone's got an interesting story
I've met a lot of interesting people while flying. For example, I've sat by the former drummer of Ozzy Osbourne (he was running a .com at the time); Don Cherry and Ron Maclean (Don was not happy about our delayed flight); and Rob Van Winkle aka Vanilla Ice (a very bright, heavily tattooed guy!). But it's not just celebs who are interesting. The most interesting stories often come from the unsuspecting individuals. Just a few weeks ago I sat by a runner who runs up to 189km in a single day. I felt the deep remorse of a UN worker heading home on sick leave because she had just witnessed a pile of hundreds of beheaded people in a Darfur. From students to celebrities- grandmothers to priests and rabbis- there is a wonderland of interesting stuff. I've kept in touch with some of the folks I've met along the way. Some I've helped- some have helped me. A few have even become guest speakers in my classes. Some would call this networking but I do it because I like meeting people and learning about their experiences.
The Game on Flight Me Me Me
A few weeks ago, I flew into Winnipeg for a surprise birthday party. After a 30 minute nap in my airline seat, I woke up to find myself sitting beside Tara, a 24 year old woman with an undergraduate business degree and a penchant for fashion. She saw me pull out my iPhone and play Angry Birds. Within seconds, she did the same thing, then glanced over to me and said, "I love Angry Birds. But yours looks different than mine."
"I'm playing a different version. I'm playing Angry Birds Rio."
Tara didn't have Angry Birds Rio version but proceeded to tell me how it was her dream to travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and South America. I asked her why. She loved the vibrancy and extravagance of Carnival fashions and sought a career in fashion marketing. In fact, she aspired to work in South America for a designer- to better understand the Brazilian "feel". Tara and I shared a similar perspective- that the "Brazil country-of-origin" label is on the rise, because of the rapid pace of development of the country- and its international likeability.
Tara felt that her background in costume making, part time modeling, and her undergraduate degree in business had prepared her well for such a career. We chatted about some of her courses and profs (a couple of which I knew), and of her desire to do an MBA at McGill University. She had a lot of concerns about getting accepted at McGill (she had been rejected for undergraduate studies) and admitted that she was having trouble writing an MBA application.
Since we were both heading to Winnipeg, she transitioned her thoughts to the Winnipeg Jets- what they should be called and why... what their logo should be...how the sweaters should look... and the team's overall impact on the city. Sadly our 85 minute chat came to an end as our flight landed. But, at the baggage pick up, she saw me waiting for my bag, walked up to me and said, "Thank you for interesting conversation... I really enjoyed it. I'm sorry but I forgot your name..."
"Bob", I replied.
She didn't forget my name because she never knew it. In fact, this was the first question (which it technically is not even a question) that she asked me over our 85 minute conversation. Equally as interesting, she pretty much volunteered a huge chunk of her life history.
As she strutted away, I waved goodbye in my green Brazilian flag shirt. I couldn't help but thinking, had she asked a few professional questions in the right way, I most likely would have happily advised her on her McGill MBA application, introduced her to some influential people at the university, advised her about the MBA level Global Branding on my Study Abroad Brazil program that I have taught for 9 years, shared my experiences on working with some Brazilian fashion companies, and made recommendations for her future South American travels.
Sadly, Tara became the newest, biggest winner in The Game. The 85 minute champion.