Monday, May 25, 2015

Life Messages

I wrote the following story which was featured in Bazaar Magazine in 2009.  I was reminded of it because some business came up with his company, SOC (same contract, different year...).  This man is still one of the nicest people I've ever met and I still carry his message with me.

A Guy I Met on a Bus

I met a guy on a bus.  I was on a military site visit which wasn’t anything extraordinary.  We were a group of sixty people on two buses for four days.  We got to know the people seated next to us pretty well.

The guy I met on the bus cheerfully started my day with, “Good morning, sunshine,” which is an expression that my dear friend regularly uses, adding an air of familiarity.  The gentleman was in his 60’s and we began the conversation with an exchange of “where are you from?” leading to other details like family and travel.

The guy I met on the bus spoke fondly of his wife of many years; a former stock car race driver who had won so many events that she had decided to stop, as it was “getting too easy”.  She now drives a Corvette; he, a ‘57 Chevy.  They have a daughter who was thrown out of school for fighting; she just loved to fight, he laughed.  She fought so hard that she managed to get an undergraduate degree in economics and a master’s degree in marketing.  He spoke of the power of women and how proud he was of his wife and daughter; although he didn’t need to say much as he beamed just mentioning them.  They live in Nevada and he travels around the world.  I told him that I thought he had an enviable life and he admitted that yes, it is pretty good.

The guy I met on the bus has lived a healthy life.  He was obviously fit and talked about his disregard for people who smoke.  He had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and believes it came about after being exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam.  He humorously chastised another rider on the bus, a fellow diabetic, for eating candy on the trip.  “Let me see that package,” became the trip mantra.  We laughed and had good conversation as the hours passed traveling all over Kuwait.

The guy I met on the bus is an executive from a security services provider with contracts in Iraq.  “We don’t go in with guns blazing,” he said, “We take the quieter, lower-key approach.  You might not have heard of us.  We’re not Blackwater.”  Good for them.  Perhaps we all need a quieter approach.

The guy I met on the bus took the time to talk to low-ranking soldiers on the visits and finding out a little about their lives.  We weren’t supposed to, but it didn’t dissuade him from discreetly paying for the soldier in line behind him at the lunch line; as was his habit.

As we passed through the desert on a very dusty day, we talked about aging and the importance of calling your parents.  “They don’t need your money.  They probably don’t need your time.  They don’t need much at all, but a phone call once in a while to let them know that you love them.  I tell my young people at work all the time to call their parents; even if it is ten minutes on my company’s money, I don’t care.  I just want them to know how important it is.  Call your parents.”  I wondered how this lesson would have affected me at a younger age if delivered by someone who I considered to be a mentor.  I am sure that his employees must be affected by this and how it would most likely have a carry-over affect to other compassionate acts in their lives.  They must be very loyal employees, I imagined.

I got off the bus and quickly called my mother just to say hello and tell her how much I love her.  She knows, but I tell her again and again at every opportunity. 

I thought about the current economic situation and all the inhumanity around me all of a sudden.  There have been waves of unkindness and indifference.  This gentleman (and it is unfortunate to note that I use that term sparingly these days) reminded me that it isn’t universal; people do care.  Sometimes you meet people and they are there to teach you some valuable lessons in life; or perhaps just to make you recall true decency.  I try to listen to voices in a variety of packages; as you never know where the major life lessons will come from.  In this case, it might just have been from a guy I met on a bus.

1 comment:

Quick on your feet, but tired as hell said...


What a wonderful life story and a very important life lesson. Thanks for sharing this story.