Talking to Strangers, Squared

Dr. MaryAnne, the most interesting seatmate I've ever met

Dr. Mary Anne, the most interesting seatmate I’ve ever met

On January 30, I zipped back to Texas for one of my twice-yearly lectures in SMU’s Graduate Marketing Certificate Program.  Invited my friend Ken Gilbert, recently retired from American Airlines, to attend the talk on airline service quality, and he was kind enough to again billet me at their home.  We were up early the next morning, across town to Euless, Texas, and a caloric breakfast at the local Waffle House.  It had been more than five years since I had a WH breakfast, and I simply could not resist their claim of being “the world’s leading server of real hash browns, so I ordered a small plate of what’s called “Scattered all the way,” meaning hash browned potatoes covered with fried onions, melted cheese, ham chunks, grilled tomatoes, jalapeños, mushrooms, chili, and sausage gravy.  Over the top, for sure, but so yummy.  Plus it was the $4 value size, smaller than a regular portion.  Plus I rode my bike 10 miles the next morning.  Joining Ken and me was Randy Essell, another AA alumnus.  We had a great yak.

Breakfast. Honestly, Dr. M, I only eat this stuff every five years!

Breakfast. Honestly, Dr. M, I only eat this stuff every five years!

The flight home was (Talking to Strangers)2.  In nearly half a century of flying I don’t think I’ve ever sat next to someone as interesting as Mary Anne, a pediatrician from Oklahoma City, a pillar of the medical community there, and member of the board of the American Medical Association.  But those are just her professional creds.  She was also an engaged citizen and  truly humane doc, striving to improve health and wellness – she was on her way to an NIH meeting on premature births.  Indeed, she suggested I note here that the rate of premature births has been increasing in the U.S., something of great concern.  Even more troubling, much of the rise has been from mothers-to-be who ask for a Caesarean section before full term for reasons of convenience; somehow their physicians, who do know better, comply with the request.

We discussed health policy, and her optimism that we could cover everyone in America and still find a way to pay for it was so wonderful.  Part of that riff included reference to “Big Med,” a wonderful New Yorker article (I read it when I got home) that pondered what medicine could learn from the Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain.  The article is here.

We talked the entire flight, from gate to gate, and not just about medicine and health, something that has long interested me, but about the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the tragic terrorist bombing there in 1995 (a friend of her daughter perished in the explosion), business education, and families.  I could relate many other items from our chat, but here’s a well-selected last tidbit: as a long advocate of pride in place, I was delighted to learn that she and her husband have already taught their two-year-old granddaughter – who lives in Virginia – to sing “Oklahoma”!  It was a wonderful ride.

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