If you are reading this post without having first read the one underneath it, Cheryl and I spent most of a week in Providence, Rhode Island recently, for my annual work conference and this is the second of three parts, about a few of the characters we met there.After settling in on our restaurant choice that last night, the 3rd of the recommendations our legally/morally/karmically-challenged friend had made, we were sitting at the bar, killing time until our table would be ready in 25…no 40…how about close to 90 minutes. Cheryl was responding on her phone to an Etsy order while I was content to watch the people around the bar and small restaurant, making up stories in my mind about each one as to the relationships of the couples or intentions of the others. Seemed like quite a few middle-aged women hoping to be noticed or remarked on by someone, anyone, if only by the girlfriend they were sharing their drinks or meal with.
One woman, I noticed, was sitting by herself at the bar, immediately to Cheryl’s left, but at an angle, where the bar turned back toward the kitchen. She was, again, in our general age range, and was attractive and had an air both of unhidden confidence as well as unease, as would I, were I sitting alone at a bar, or a restaurant, or hell, just about anywhere in public.As the bar waitress brought her her dinner, the waitress introduced herself, apologizing for having forgotten the woman’s name, obviously wanting to keep her happy as a semi-regular patron.
When Cheryl finished her business, she casually yet with unfeigned importance, asked the woman what she had ordered because it looked so darn good! As with our troubled friend who had steered us here, over the next 20-30 minutes we had a conversation of great focus and conclusion with this woman, again, never catching her name, though as Marion Paroo might say, I don’t believe she ever dropped it.Over the course of the conversation, we learned that she owned a business that she had built from scratch and was now earning (presumably grossing) millions of dollars a year, though she seemed apologetic that they hadn’t hit ten million yet, but seemed equally energized about getting there. And incredibly to me, she only has 5 employees…not including the factory in Vietnam where the private label clothes she markets are made.
As we talked about her business, interrupted, as I recall, only by her interest in knowing more about Quakers, we discussed the qualities most important to her success, and I referred back to a conversation I had had hours earlier with the Chair of our Board in discussing the quality he feels we should look for above all others in the search for a successor to the current, soon to retire, President of our company. And that is the ability, as I came to phrase it, to just be really good at being a Human Being.When I told her of that conversation and that conclusion, she paused, looked away for a moment, considered it, looked back at me and said with an air of revelation and finality, “Yeah, that’s exactly it. To grow our business, we all have to be really good at being…Human Beings.”
And soon our table was ready, we thanked each other for a nice conversation, wished each other well and went on with our lives…endeavoring to be Really Good Human Beings.(And in retrospect, in Jamie world, Providence Friend A will run into Providence Friend B and solve all each others’ unapparent issues of loneliness and purpose. )