Sunday afternoon. I was wrapping up a weekend with my daughter in Washington DC, just reaching the queue for (what turned out to be the wrong) security line at Reagan National Airport. I was dressed casually, khaki slacks, striped button-down shirt, and a black L.L. Bean fleece with the University of Richmond shield at chest level.
“Oh, look, the University of Richmond.”
I turned to find a woman smiling and looking at the emblem on my fleece.
“Look, honey,” she said to her husband, who was standing to my right. “The University of Richmond.”
Her husband turned to look at the fleece and then at me.
He smiled. “Do you work at the University?”
“No,” I replied, grinning. “My daughter did her undergraduate work at the University of Richmond. I have been visiting her for the weekend and so I wore the school colors.”
“Ah,” he said, thoughtfully. “When did she graduate?”
I explained that she had graduated two years ago and I began to share the story of her experience at Richmond and how she landed the job in Washington.
Just that moment, one of the security people looked at my boarding pass and told me, “You are in the wrong line, sir!”, and pointed me toward a large American flag hanging at the opposite end of the terminal. “You need to be down there.”
Disappointed, I turned to leave. I thanked my conversation mate and his wife for the conversation and I asked him, “What do you do at the University?”
“I’m the president,” he said, smiling. “And I would love to hear your daughter’s story. Here is my card. Please send me an email.”
I wasn’t more than 20 seconds down the hallway towards the American flag when I was texting my daughter to tell her about the conversation. “You’ll never guess who I just met…. This is unbelievable… “
I’ve noticed that, when we pick something remarkable about a person standing close to us and ask a question about it, good conversation often results. There is no telling who we can meet this way. Airport security lines, movie or theater lines, and restaurant queues are good places to strike up conversations because we all have to go through the lines, whether we are corporate giants, small business entrepreneurs, or students.
We just have to keep an eye out and ask a question.
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