The Joy of Meeting People

A Dad's Point of View by Bruce SallanMeeting people in real life, in person, is cool. I write and speak a greatbout technology and social interaction. It’s my belief that modern technology offers wondrous things but, as with just about everything, there is a down side.  That “down side” is that you can be lulled to believe that you can do everything you need to do from the comfort of your computer.  Yes, you can do much more than at any time in human history, but the value of direct people contact cannot be replaced by any new tech device, app, software, or web site.

This was dramatically demonstrated on a recent trip to New York, where I combined business and pleasure and found the pleasure of meeting people to be not only joyful but also informative and invaluable in ways I’d almost forgotten about, considering my attachment to technology.

I’m not bashful, to say the least, so I talk to everyone.  Literally.  I struck up conversations with every taxi driver whose cab I entered.  In the crowded subway, I met a young Danish girl of Vietnamese heritage and in the space of one stop I learned her incredible story.  Being “social” got my son and me into the airline lounge for free, when our plane was delayed, whereas sitting back would’ve stuck us in the main, loud, uncomfortable airport waiting areas for several hours.

We parents model the behavior we want from our children.  My son got a great lesson in assertiveness, through observing my regular interactions with various people we encountered. To him, however, it was also sprinkled with an equal amount of me embarrassing him (24, 25 times?) by just being “Me!.”

In the space of four and a half days, some of the things we experienced from this direct interaction with people and places were:

~~ We met a young girl, while smashed together on the subway, who was doing a world tour before beginning medical school in Holland. In the space of ONE stop, I learned that her parents were boat people after the fall of Saigon, that her father was rescued by a Norwegian ship while in his early teens, and that he attended high school in Holland, where he met his wife who was also a survivor of the horrid post-war times in Vietnam.  He became an engineer and they had five children, the youngest of which was next to me, telling me her wonderful, engaging story.  As you can see, this is who I am — talking to everybody, loving it, learning, interacting — and as you can also understand, it’s why I probably under-estimated the number of times I embarrassed my son.

~~ We hung out with my virtual friend Adam Cohen (@dadarocks) who took us to the most incredible restaurant for dessert, Max Brenners. Adam is one of those people I “knew” from Twitterl, but now got the pleasure of not only meeting but getting to really “know.” There is no doubt that 140 characters have their limits!  Adam was beyond gracious to me and David, and David got a taste of how a New Yorker handles things, since Adam was born and raised there, and has his own unique style of “getting it done.”  His style is persistent, direct, and explains his 76 Klout (a Twitter measure of influence) and other top-of-the-list statistics as a dad blogger/influencer.

~~ Ground Zero where I was moved and impacted in ways I hadn’t imagined.

~~ I met a taxi driver from a small town in Ghana, who knew Pastor Frank Bennin, who runs the girl’s school that I’ve been supporting through my writing and radio show. Pastor Bennin’s kids befriended me on Facebook – yet another marvel of the Internet that we’d connect this way.  But, what are the odds that I’d meet a man from Ghana, on a trip to New York, who happened to know the little township of Agona Swedru?

~~ I spoke at the #140conf*, a Social Media conference where I met dozens of people that I only knew “virtually.” We discussed, shared, and got to know each other in ways that non-verbal, non-direct communication just cannot do.  In many cases, we came up with business ideas and other things we might join forces on that never would have happened without the face-to-face time.

~~ I met people of every ethnicity, stripe, color, and any other human distinction by visiting Times Square, day and night, The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Macy’s (the largest department store in the world), The Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and the “Top of the Rock,” Chinatown (for dim sum and boba), saw four musicals (“Spiderman” – front row seats, “Memphis,” “Mary Poppins,” and “Baby, It’s You”), visited FAO Schwartz where I did a Tom Hanks (from the movie, “Big”) and danced/played on their full-size walk and play on piano, Greenwich Village for pizza at the infamous “John’s Pizza” restaurant, The Apple Store, the gorgeous display of masks in front of The Plaza Hotel, did a video interview with my son in Times Square, watched the “Today” show being broadcast “live,” and visited the Harry Potter exhibit at the Discovery Museum. Plus, taxi, taxi, taxi, walk, walk, walk, subway, subway, subway.

So, do you think getting out and seeing the world, interacting with people, learning and doing it away from the comforts of home, is worth it? I sure do! 

*Here’s a link to my travelogue article on the trip to New York which has a link to view my “talk:”

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