I walk past a middle school at lunch every day. Most days we all just carry on with our own work (mine: dog walking, theirs: game playing), but today was different.
As I walked by the school yard, one of the kids kicked a ball over the fence and across the street. She asked if I would throw it back over, apologizing a lot as she did. It’s no real burden for me, so I retrieved it and threw it back over.
Another student asked if I could help retrieve a second ball, and then a third (there wasn’t a fourth). Again, not a problem, so I returned those balls as well. And then he said this:
“You’re so generous! Thank you! If I could pay you $100 I would, but I don’t have any money. Your dog is beautiful and healthy. Have a good day!”
Now, I can’t be sure of what drove him to have that little interaction with me. But I would like to imagine it’s a mixture of these things:
Having a very high valuation of time.
Having a very low valuation of a dollar.
Having an innate sense for the existence of reciprocity.
Which then led him to decide that, knowing that he needed to pay for the use of my expensive time, a compliment to my dog was worth $100.
I was at dinner with friends recently and, during the course of our mutual catching up, was told that I have the most spectacular stories. We’re all travelers in that group, both for work and for pleasure, so the fact that I seem to have the most unusual experiences of all of us is notable.
Here are the most memorable circumstances, occurrences, and happenstances from the past year or so:
I told a 20-something man to stop verbally berating an older woman who was struggling to lift her luggage. He looked as though he might strike me, and for a moment I was worried he would. He did not.
A ticketing agent argued with me about my name for 10 minutes. She called a “Joseph Haden Chomphosy” to the desk, and I was sure it was my name but had gotten cut-off. We resolved it with me saying “If you think that somewhere on the planet, there is both a Joseph AND a Josepha with my last name and they both just happen to be in this building at the same time, you have a lot more faith than I do.”
A passenger had a panic attack in the door of the aircraft and her service dog got loose and wandered around the cockpit.
I flew out of an airport that was so small it hadn’t started taking electronic tickets yet. To this day I am not sure how they managed to get me on the plane, because it wasn’t with a paper ticket.
I had a long conversation about the educational system and how it doesn’t properly account for populations that suffer from systemic inequality.
On an entirely different flight, I had a long conversation about racism, college application processes, and real estate.
Three times I have practiced an upcoming presentation on random strangers (because our flights were delayed).
I was sent through security three times in 15 minutes at the same airport. They tested the same bottle every time even though it had been marked by them already.
I have been transported by random, non-taxi cars by two separate travel companions and have lived to tell the tale.
Twice I have shown up to an airport, ticket in hand, and been told that I am not a ticketed passenger.
And I didn’t even travel that much last year.
I was recently told by an absolutely brilliant woman that the best place for observational research is an airport, because that’s when people are their most honest selves. But if I believed what airports have to say about me, you’d think I was the unluckiest traveler around. 🙂