It was April 29, 1992. I was renting a room in someone’s townhouse in Rockville, Maryland. I had finished my undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins a few months earlier, and had moved to the DC suburbs to pursue my Master’s degree.
April 29, 1992. I was a week away from my 21st birthday, and I had spent a very intense 10 days volunteering on a successful primary campaign in Philadelphia.
April 29, 1992, was a Wednesday. After sleeping in following the victory party, I hopped into my car to return to Rockville. I got home at about 6 pm and flipped on the news. I was horrified to see Los Angeles, my hometown, going up in flames, as a riot moved through following the verdicts in the Rodney King police beating case. I was 3,000 miles away from home. I felt helpless.
It’s April 29, 2015. For the past two days, I’ve watched the tensions in Baltimore manifest themselves in rioting and burning. I lived in Baltimore – granted, not primarily the parts that are filled with strife right now. But I’ve walked down North Avenue, past that check-cashing place, past that hair extension place. I’ve seen the desperation, the boarded-up homes in East Baltimore, just blocks away from Johns Hopkins Hospital. I’ve been to Mondawmin Mall.
I’m 3,000 miles away from the city that is the only other city that I’ve considered “home” in my life. Baltimore – that gritty, segregated, flawed city you probably first saw on “Homicide” or “The Wire.” Baltimore seems to be precariously balancing on the thin line that separates most of America today. And again, I’m 3,000 miles away from “home,” and I feel helpless.
Interestingly, I’ll be in Baltimore for a long-scheduled conference next week – happy to say it’s a conference that (so far) has not changed its plans to meet there. I’ll find a way to show my love and support for Baltimore, my home away from home, next week.
So I was sitting at O’Hare Airport last Friday night, on the floor, staring out the window, eating airport food, chatting with a friend who had been on the same college visit trip. A pilot walked up, wheeling his Jeps behind him.
I’m a pilot, so I like to chat with pilots. So we start chatting. He invited me to come up to the cockpit before the flight; not the first time I’ve been invited up and on a few occasions, I’ve taken them up on it.
So we board the flight – 8:15 pm out of Chicago for LA. It had been a long week.
About a half hour into the flight, a guy – Asian, about 30 I would say – came walking down the aisle as if headed to the bathroom. I was sitting on the aisle on the left side. A row ahead of me, the walking guy sort of stumbled into the guy sitting on the aisle on the right side. The sitting guy sort of pushed back on him, and he made it one more row and basically fell into my lap.
My first reaction was, “oh my g-d, how rude, look where you are going!” And then I realized that I was supporting his entire body weight and he was clearly not in control of himself. And he wasn’t drunk.
The sitting guy realized that the now-stumbling guy is having some type of medical situation, and came up behind him, with his arms underneath the stumbling guy’s arms, and when it was clear that continuing to stand up was not an option, he laid him down in the aisle. He asked the guy what day it was, and he responded clearly that it was the 11th. I asked him what his name was. “Jonathan.”
We called the flight attendants, who brought a cloth to put on his face. I offered him some water and pulled out my trusty dark chocolate raisinets, in case we had a blood sugar situation on our hands. The way he was laid in the aisle, my hands were at his knees, so I kept one hand on his knee and kept telling him, “We’re with you, Jonathan.”
Then the announcement came that you never want to hear on an airplane: “Is there a physician on board the aircraft?” Two people from first class responded. The flight attendant pulled out an emergency kit, and the first doc immediately began using the stethoscope and the sphygmomanometer (I am shocked at how many people know this word and don’t have to look it up! Pat yourself on the back, smartie!)
Jonathan’s blood pressure and pulse rates were high. I asked him if he had eaten or drunk anything that day – remember this was an 8:15 pm flight. He said no. I was relaying information back to the other two flight attendants – the first one was straddling him in the aisle (which I sort of thought was odd and a little bit constricting but what do I know?) and two more were behind him. At some point it occurred to them to tell the cockpit.
The first doc (the second doc didn’t really do much the whole time!) told the flight attendants to get him sugar water and tomato juice. He was dehydrated. He needed sugar and salt. Electrolytes. The flight attendants brought Sprite and tomato juice, and then they all left. The original guy one row ahead of me helped Jonathan up to his knees. I opened both cans and poured a cup of each, and he downed both of them. He literally got up and walked away, leaving me holding two half-full cans, and that was that.
And I thought that was the most exciting part of our flight until I got off, and saw the pilot I had chatted with before, who said to me, “Did you see Buzz Aldrin on our flight?” And he showed me pictures. Indeed, Buzz Aldrin, wearing a bright red flight suit that said “Dr. Buzz Aldrin” on it – though he doesn’t want to talk to you (I tried – saw him at baggage claim – told him I was a pilot – I could see him in his mind wanting to say to me, “You fly a single-engine putt-putt and I’ve been on the f@#$#@#ing MOON!”) and won’t let you take his picture. Yes indeed Buzz Aldrin was also in first class on that flight.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated, boys and girls.
So I went to another networking group the other night, one I’ve attended in the past. There were many familiar faces in the room. We were given a blank Bingo card and told to walk around the room and get people to sign the squares. Networking Bingo, as it were. Fun. I just love icebreakers.
So I found myself standing with a guy I’d met before – a chiropractor – and a very tall woman whom I know I have attended networking groups with before, because she has a very distinct look, and I knew as soon as I saw her that she was a speaking coach. But she was wearing a guest name tag. So I welcomed her, and said my name, and reminded her that we’d met before.
I was pretty sure that I had actually met her more than once, so I started naming groups I attend. She shook her head no. I said to her, “Do you remember seeing me stand up and say that I’m an independent college counselor?” Nope.
So I asked her what groups she attends. This Chamber. That Rotary. Nothing. Then she named the one. The one group where I had met her. The one group that met last week, for lunch on Tuesday. The one group WHERE I HAD BEEN THE FIVE-MINUTE SPEAKER THE PREVIOUS WEEK.
So here’s the thing about networking. We all do it. It’s about getting your name and your card out there. But it’s about making sure people LIKE you and WANT to refer people to you. And what makes people like you? Making people feel like, even though you are there to promote yourself, you are looking out for opportunities for them as well. Who wants to network with someone who can’t be bothered to remember what anyone else does?
So after a little bit of “oh, thank goodness we finally figured THAT out” bullshit, she moved onto the topic of my work. And then she proceeded to tell me how I could refer my clients to her. “You know,” she said, “if you have clients who are going for college interviews, I can help prepare them for that.” I told her that after 15 years of being a college interviewer, I take care of interview prep.
I left the meeting with another woman I’ve met several times – someone who was also in the room for my five-minute presentation the week before. She works for a local cemetery, helping people take care of “advanced planning” issues. She told me that the same person had informed her that she could refer HER clients to the speech coach if they wanted to deliver a stunning eulogy.
My dad got his pilot’s license a few years before I was born. In fact, he relishes telling people that my first “memory” of flying came when my mom was 7 months pregnant. There are some details you probably don’t need to hear. There was barfing involved.
In spring, 1996, I was working on a project in Florida; I took myself to the airport and announced, “I’ve been flying right seat for 25 years, I’m ready to learn.” I didn’t tell my parents about my lessons for three weeks, when I soloed on my 25th birthday.
I haven’t flown for awhile; I’ve recently developed a little bit of positional vertigo, and really, who wants a dizzy pilot? But I was thrilled when I was chosen (at random, so they say) by the Daily News to go up in Lear 35 with legendary pilot Clay Lacy, who runs one of the larger charter flight operations at Van Nuys Airport, one of the busiest general aviation airports in the world.
I was able to take a guest, so of course I took my dad, who arrived wearing the shirt I got him after I took my checkride in 1996: a green polo with the words “My daughter is a PILOT too!” stitched in blue on the front breast pocket. He’s worn that shirt so much over the past 17 years I can’t believe it’s not in tatters by now.
I did actually get to fly with Clay one other time many years ago, a ride home after an aviation convention in Atlanta. But I’d never flown in a Lear, and this week’s flight was just for fun. Four of the six passengers were pilots. We took off from VNY, with its freshly repaved 8,001-foot runway (longer than Burbank’s 6,500-foot runway 7 miles to the east), and headed through the Sepulveda Pass, past the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory, over downtown LA, and then Dodger Stadium. We were at about 2,000 feet the whole time.
Then we headed out to Pasadena and circled the Rose Bowl, empty except for the joggers circling the 3-mile path and golfers wondering why a jet was flying so low. Then we turned west again, flew past Burbank and VNY where we started, and skirted through the Santa Susanna Pass at not much higher than the rocky hills, to the Reagan Library. Clay gave us a nice view with a 45-degree bank, which made me sit back and stop shooting photos for a moment (veritgo is FUN boys and girls!). Then he decided to show us what a 1970 Lear could do by punching the engines and climbing at a rate of about 10,000 feet per minute. Thankfully he did that for less than a minute, as we topped out just over 10,000 feet and headed over to Malibu, where we descended (quickly!) and flew up the coast. Here’s a little video of our ride over Malibu – we were at about 1,000 feet (you may want to turn your speakers down as the engines are loud!):
And finally, we headed over the hills and back home to Van Nuys. You can see all of the photos I took here.
When I posted a photo after we landed, one of my cousins reminded me that I live a charmed life. I do.
So is it me, or is there a craze sweeping the networking universe…a craze based on someone, somewhere, deciding that instead of letting people introduce themselves and talk about their business for 30 seconds, or a minute, or however long, it would be better to let people pair up and talk to each other for a fleeting moment, or possibly 2 minutes, and then introduce each other?
Who decided this is a good idea?????
Does anyone think that someone who has known you for two minutes can effectively share with a group of strangers, strangers whom you’ve paid for the opportunity to introduce yourself and your business so that sometime down the road they might refer potential clients to you, your passion for what you do???
And within the realm of people who think this is a great idea, why do some of them insist on standing up and saying that THEY ARE the person that they interviewed, instead of actually just introducing that person? Did you not understand the assignment?
Really!? [Where are Seth and Amy when you need them??] You haven’t lived until you have seen a large Hispanic man stand up and say that he’s Jeanette, and he does accupuncture. And even if there’s not gender confusion, there’s just plain first-person-mix-up confusion. Today I was at a networking event at which this brilliant exercise was practiced (I bet you figured that out!?) and two lawyers were paired up, both male, both sole practitioners. And Jay got up and introduced himself as Gary. Or vice versa, I can’t remember, and I honestly won’t remember what either of them does, because oh yes, today’s networking event brought this ridiculous practice to a whole new level by having people get up one at a time, in no particular order, without the person they interviewed standing next to them.
Can we please all agree that I am the best person to talk about my business, and that’s likely true for everyone else out there?