How many of you have driven 1700 miles (2,700 km) without any sleep?
If I have mentioned this once, I have mentioned this many times that twenty three years of travel has taken its own toll on me but the unique experiences I have gained on the road has made it totally worthwhile. Of all those experiences, the ones that I absolutely love are those that involve meeting complete strangers on the road.
Each and one of them has had a story to tell. Each of them has had a very interesting journey in life and after every meeting, I have left with a great sense of satisfaction that my path in life intersected with theirs. Today, I met another such unique person.
I was in Milwaukee on my perhaps-last-business-travel for the year. I needed to meet my colleague Mark – who is also our CFO and COO – and get a lot of things knocked off before the holiday season started. Mark, being a very organized person, was there in the hotel at 7:30 sharp and one by one we kept finishing up the long list of things he had for us to discuss and decide.
Towards the end, we had moved near the bar of the hotel and were getting things done at a great pace. But I was also getting tired. That is when I decided to completely frustrate Mark and get distracted by talking to this lady who had been sitting at the bar for about an half hour or so by then.
“So, where are you visiting from?”, I started in my traditional way.
“Key West? I used to live in Coral Springs”
“I know that place”
“Did you fly out of Miami?”
“No, I drove here.”
“YOU DROVE HERE???”, I asked somewhat incredulously. “That is what – seventeen hours?”
“Ummm.. more like twenty six hours”, she said making short shrift of my knowledge of Geography
I figured that it must have been an interesting drive. As a background, Sharmila, Natasha and Nikita are driving to Dallas during the holidays without me and I have been trying to find out hotels on the way where they can stop over. That would be an eleven hour drive.
“Where all did you stop over?”, I asked remembering the above.
“Oh! I came straight up.”
“You came straight up? You have not slept for over a day?”
“Yes. I sleep less”
“How old are you?”
For a moment, I was dumbfounded. 62 and she drove 26 hours straight out flat.
“Don’t you feel lonely on the drives after some time?”, I had to ask.
Then I got to know Claudia a lot more deeply. Having suffered an alcoholic father during her formative ages, she fled home at the age of 16. Got married at the age of 17. Got divorced at the age of 22. And then fought her way back in life.
Remember Mark? Well, by now, even he had forgotten about our office work. At some point, the sheer energy of the discussion had sucked him in. And good thing too. For, eventually, we found out that Claudia had worked in GE for some and was the personal admin for the same person that became Mark’s boss in GE (much later though). Speak of intersections!!!
We had a great time learning how she, one day decided that she had had enough of the local cold weather and and thirty four inches of snow and went off to Florida. And she comes back to meet her family in this area….
Eventually, Mark and I had to get back to the last parts of our work.
Such people and such stories have always been great inspirations for me as I have crisscrossed the world for work. Fighting adversity and living life in your own terms – that is what it is all about. We are all given a different deck of cards. We do not get to control that. What we do get to control is what we do with those cards. It is all about playing them with class and vigor…
So, if anyone of you see a BMW X3 driving down southbound I-75 in a few more days with the lady in the picture driving it, do not forget to give her two thumbs up.
And I hope you now understand, why I cannot wait for the new year to come around – I need to foxtrot to the airport in the hope of meeting a few more great human beings and learn from…