My return flights from Spokane to Denver were very eventful in my last two visits to Washington State. First one was memorable because of an event related to delay of flight and the second one was due to my late arrival at the airport that lead to missing the flight. This time, it was none of the above. But I had a feeling that something was about to happen to make this journey noteworthy. I was not sure whether I should be sad or happy that everything was going as planned. I took my seat and started making plan to engage myself for next two hours.
Everything changed with an elegant smile of a person who was in his mid 50’s. “Hellooooo – my friend. My name is Bob and what is yours?” was the voice I heard. I knew that moment that my waiting for an unexpected moment was over. Bob’s free frank attitude, graceful smile and sky-like openness of his heart made me believe as if I knew him for last 10 years. I learned many amazing stories of his life in next 2 hours of his incessant talk. Briefly, he was a hippie of 70s, a veteran of Vietnam war who come back to finish his high school at the age of 42, and was now traveling in airplane for the first time after 70’s. He was held for few minutes by TSA because of his ignorance related to materials he could not carry in flight. His present is as intriguing as his past. Bob is now working in a convenient store by interstate highway near Clarksville, Arkansas and is happily living with his wife whom he got married 4 years ago.
A comedian by heart, he always tries to make everyone smile without afraid of being judged. He has been doing it without worrying about the response he gets. In his word – “I smile at everyone as I am learning everyday something new from every conversation with a stranger. The day I’ll stop learning is better be the day I die”. However, he admits with smile that he is outpaced by technology and modern society where everyone seems to forget the importance of sharing few jokes with a stranger. He went on telling stories how people ignored him in his earlier connecting flight thinking he is “crazy”.
Calling a stranger crazy who offers few jokes to make you smile!! Sadly, it is more inconvenient truth than global warming. The definition of craziness in modern society is to talk to a stranger like his best friend, to smile and share your story with someone you barely know. We all have our excuses for not being open to strangers. It could be our fear of being judged or insecurity about our self-confidence or privacy.
I agree that there are valid reasons for being cautious with an outsider in the era when credit-theft is norm in our day-to-day life. But don’t you think that we may have gone too far to protect our false ego or personal space? So far that we could not even smile and share few jokes as if someone can decode our social security number from the way we talk. There may be 10% of us who are crazy enough to take advantage of strangers, but rest 90% of us withdraw into shell because of those few idiots and changed the definition of craziness forever. Question remains and introspection necessary to redraw the line that separate craziness from normal.
I would never forget the stories Bob shared with me that many schools are selling in the name of MBA degree. You heard it right. He was talking about personal management that no book/course can teach except one crazy hippie from 70’s. Bob may be crazy or too friendly for ordinary folks, but he made my two-hour journey the best one ever.
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