You never know when an everyday encounter can turn into a magical – “play it forward, sideways, as well as up-and-down” – moment…like yesterday. I had just completed a first-time exploratory business meeting with a counselor colleague at a Panera’s restaurant. We were discussing the possibility of developing training and workshop and retreat programs. The meeting was pretty lively; a mutual sharing of experience and skills. Still it’s hard to truly capture one’s stage presence sitting at a restaurant table, though I did sing a line or two from one of my Shrink Raps ™. (You can’t take me out anywhere.) Actually, Ms. J got it! On a similar dynamism wavelength, we were already contemplating next steps.
Having completed our brainstorm, I carried my tray to the waste receptacle. Out of the blue, a Panera employee, a 20-something African-American male with dreadlocks, began helping me deposit my utensils. (I’m assuming I wasn’t mistakenly throwing my tray or knife in the landfill slot.) I thanked him, then turning to J, said, “We need to figure out where we’ll meet for our next brainstorm.”
Well Millennial Man was right there, suddenly declaring, “You should come back right here for that next meeting.” My reply, “You’re good. They should have you in Marketing or Public Relations.” He grinned and said, “I know. Tell my boss.”
Now it was my turn not to miss a beat. I asked for his boss’ name and if he was around. Right after saying, “Sean,” he said, “There he is behind the counter.” I immediately called over Sean, introduced myself as a satisfied customer and then captured the above, saying, “You’ve got a fine young man over there,” pointing to our protagonist. (Our young star was already walking behind the counter.) Continuing with the manager, “Your employee heard me ask my colleague (at this point, J was watching, eyes widened with mouth slightly ajar) about our next meeting location. This young man immediately began encouraging us to come back for round two. I think he’s a Customer Service/PR natural.” Sean smiled and thanked me, and when I turned around to leave there was Ms. J with a grin on her face. Hey, it’s fun being a little outrageous!
Moral/Morale of the Story
This morning recounting the vignette with my friend Rod, a Pastor and Counselor, he hit the nail on the head, observing, “This was a win-win-win-win!” Let’s itemize the array of positives:
1. The Initiating Millennial Man. Our protagonist demonstrated initiative; not once, but twice. First by helping me dispose of my tray and then, paying attention to my remark, he transformed my floating in the air question into a welcoming invitation. The young man also demonstrated confidence by agreeing with my “You should be in marketing” assessment. And while I’m not sure if he was merely being playful, I took seriously the suggestion to speak to his manager. It seems reasonable to presume that my actions, especially providing immediate feedback to the manager, were reinforcing this young’s man sense of self-efficacy. Hopefully, I’m also encouraging future attentive/responsive/take charge behaviors.
2. The Surprised Manager. I sensed Sean, the Manager, was a bit concerned when I called him over, perhaps expecting some kind of complaint. Now his expectations were turned upside down; in fact, his shop and, especially, one of his employees were being singled out for uncommon service. Actually, Sean’s initial surprise (and relief) only elevates the power of my message, and likely its halo effect. Hopefully, this initial encounter expands the communicational bandwidth between Manager and Millennial Man.
3. An Amused (if not Amazed) Colleague. Things happened so quickly, it was only in hindsight that I sensed the impact potential of this three-way encounter on one interested observer, i.e., Ms. J. In my Performance Artist World, trying to describe what you do never equals “walking your talk.” However, a pregnant moment sprung to life from the casual exchange with my young cohort. Our brief interplay was spontaneously transformed into a public, larger-than-life stage. I suspect Ms. J truly grasped she would be performing with a dynamic partner who would take an opening or opportunity and, not just walk, but run with it.
4. A Mindful and Manic Stress Doc. Perhaps all those years living in “The Big Easy” helped nurture a playful, outrageous, side. And surely my experience as a public speaker who often improvises with an audience, also fueled that 0 to 60, touched with manic response. (Thank you Kaye Redfield Jamison, author of Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. Actually, there’s also some genetic fuel adding to this man’s fire.) And, of course, it felt good being an advocate for a deserving worker bee. (I also realize in the pace and excitement of the moment, I forgot to ask the young man his name. My bad!)
Finally, another reflective realization involved my initial encounter with Millennial Man. Not only was I surprised by his sudden appearance at the disposal station, but his dreadlocks immediately caught my attention. (Was it a racial-cultural thing; was it a function of just being a Boomer?) However, my focus quickly shifted to an appreciation of his sly yet self-assured banter. Maybe the takeaway is to again remember that articulate, take charge personalities come in all sizes and shapes, as well as all genders, generations, and colors. Amen and women to that!