Travels began on Wednesday, January 22. I hadn’t been on an airplane for more than a month, and although it was a quick work trip, I was still excited. Took the Metro to Washington National and flew in late afternoon south to West Palm Beach, Florida. Before we boarded, I noticed a young man standing by a counter, holding a white plastic bag that I see fairly often in airports, a bag that read “International Organisation for Migration.” The IOM is an independent NGO founded after World War II to resettle people who literally cannot go home. I looked at the fellow, wondered about his story, and prayed that he was on his way to a safer, better place. It was, I thought, another example of the transformative power of the jet airplane.
It was 15° F. in D.C., and 38 degrees warmer in Florida, which meant people were traipsing around in down vests and gloves – it’s all relative. Picked up a rental car, pedal to the metal south on I-95, then west to Coral Springs. I missed my exit, but zipped back around to the dinner venue I found on the Yelp website. Spiky Ty’s was a Chinese-owned place in a strip mall, with something Asian for everyone. I tucked into a Thai curry and a beer.
At the table next to me was a family of four, two teenage daughters, having a good conversation. When they got up to leave, it was time for the first Talking-to-Strangers of the new year. I told the older girl I liked her hoodie, navy with the name “Georgetown” in white, adding that I taught there. “You teach there,” said her dad, “that’s cool. We visited the campus last summer, what a place.” I agreed, and the conversation unfolded. Though his daughter had just started high school, he wanted her to see “an old campus, a place with history.” We had a nice chat. When I got to the hotel, I pinged the editor of American Way, the American Airlines inflight magazine; Adam and I have become friends over the past several years, and he has commissioned three stories. Would you be interested, I wrote, in an essay on the joy of talking to strangers? He answered immediately and enthusiastically, and I got an assignment. Cool!
Was up at 6:15 the next morning, down to the hotel gym for a ride on an exercise bike. When I finished the eight miles, I walked out to the pool. The soft gurgling of waves from a swimmer met with the soft rustling of palm fronds, silhouetted against the dawn sky. Sometimes I wonder if I should record those audio vignettes and post them here, in addition to photos and words.
I showered, dressed, and motored a few blocks to a Publix supermarket for breakfast fixings, and to Dunkin’ Donuts for a large coffee. When I promise consulting clients that I’m careful with expenses, that’s what I’m talking about! And it was just the right amount of food.
At 8:45 I met a new consulting client. She and I worked at American years back, and when she took a new job in aviation supply, I reached out, both to congratulate her and offer my B2B marketing expertise, which was the purpose of the visit. We had a good yak, then I met a few more people from the company, ate lunch, and departed. It will be an interesting assignment.
I had plenty of time before my flight, delayed to 7:35, so I drove over to say hello to a friend who lived in Boca Raton. Rang the doorbell on Sugar Plum Drive, but the lady who answered told me that Jim and Michelle had relocated to Mount Dora, in Central Florida, 14 months earlier. I thanked her, got back in the car, Googled, and called Jim from in front of his old house. We had a good yak, but Mount Dora was three hours away, so I said I’d see him on a future trip. Drove north on I-95, dropped the car, and flew home. A long, good day.