There is a line in David Mamet‘s play “Race” where the lead character asks his associate what she remembers from her trip to Venice. He goes on to explain that when we travel to somewhere like Paris, it’s not the Eiffel Tower we remember, but rather it’s the old lady selling flowers that we tell stories about when we return.
I was watching that play on the last evening of a business trip that took me to Copenhagen and New York City and it is certainly one of the stories I’ll tell. The one about the play I hadn’t really heard of, but opted to go see based on the recommendation of Laura at the theatre desk of my hotel – in no small part to the fact that she and I shared a name and an appreciation for James Spader who played the lead role.
So what will I remember from this trip? Certainly the meetings that started at 8:00 a.m. and ran non-stop to 6:00 p.m. But, also much more.
The sound of a woman singing that led me to look out my hotel window to see a parade of military green vehicles that appeared straight out of a World War II movie. The singing turned out to be coming from loudspeakers on one of the trucks.
Discovering the person seven time zones away that you’ve only talked to on conference calls shares your affinity for a Coke instead of a coffee when you both reach for one in the center of your conference table to start the morning’s meeting.
The dinner conversation at a brewpub where I found myself seated next to a Colin Farrell look-alike who was born in Istanbul, a Canadian raised in the UK with tales of Calgary that sounded like scenes from Urban Cowboy, and a New Yorker that reminded me of Nathan Lane who had raucous talks of paparazzi and Uma Thurman.
The serendipity of finding myself in a pub in Nyhavn singing along with a guitarist from my home state of Louisiana while sipping a Bourbon I’d never heard of with coworkers as new friends from the UK and Germany.
Then, there was the epic transfer through Heathrow. Where two women who had purchased the exact same snowglobe in the Copenhagen airport found each other unable to get through security with them in our carry-on baggage. How I came to be the one taking charge to help a PhD in feminist studies who had worked for the United Nations and was flying home to Jordan navigate our way out of security, through immigration and customs and back to our airlines to attempt to check our little mermaid gifts is still beyond me. I hope hers survived better than mine did and her niece gets more than the shattered remains my daughter received.
And, then finding myself seated next to a woman from New Jersey celebrating her birthday by attending a Broadway play about race relations who was a complete doppelganger for one of my Austin neighbors.
Yes, Mamet was right. It’s those unexpected scenes and people we meet on travels that make them so memorable. And I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to build such memories this past week.