June 01, 2015 - Clive (6th person I approached)
Goals, numbers and letting go. Last year, if I hadn’t publicly committed to meeting a stranger every day for a 365 days, I don’t know if I would have stuck with it every single day.
This year, I gave myself permission to take some days off. And there is the slippery slope. One day leads to two. Then the next week two leads to three and before I know it, I’m halfway through the year, and I only wrote two stories last week.
Personally, I’ve been looking at other goals in my life. For the first time ever, I feel out of shape. It has nothing to do with the cookies I eat every day either. Nor the Peanut Butter Cups. I love peanut butter cups, and the bags of the mini peanut butter cups don’t even have individual wrappers to inhibit my gorging. I digress. The truth of the matter is I need to get more active than I have been. I need to consume less sugar. There, I’ve said it publicly. I need to write more frequently, eat healthier and I need to exercise. Full stop.
Today I had a meeting downtown, and I had to do some banking afterwards. The downtown branch of my bank is in the business district. I’ve been aware that in my random approach of people from all walks of life, I’ve not encountered a lot of business people. This seemed like an opportunity to tackle that.
I decided that, though it might break my record of the most people I’ve had to approach in one day ever (eleven), I was going to find a man in a suit to talk to today. (Note, I have talked to women who are in business, more than men. I do mean specifically men here.) It's a new month, and we're halfway through the year. I've got a flexible approach to numbers, and letting go of wanting to control how many people it takes to meet a stranger. It takes how many it takes to meet the right stranger.
I saw Clive coming out of Vancouver’s waterfront convention centre. His suit, shirt and tie caught my attention. Clearly he's a confident man, dressing somewhat boldly, yet he carries it with such ease. I watched him leave the convention centre, walk away from me, and then stop at a crosswalk, waiting for the green light.
I turned off the music I was listening to, removed my earphones, and took off my sunglasses. I approached Clive and told him what I was doing. He listened attentively to everything I had to say, and then, while I waited for him to say yes or no, he replied
“Will it cost me anything?” When I laughed and said no, it wouldn’t cost him a thing other than the time it takes to chat, he said
“Sure, I’ll talk to you.”
We crossed the street to where there were some benches. We sat on a bench and chatted for a good twenty minutes or thereabouts.
“I was born right here,” he said.
“Born, raised and lived in West Van all of my life. I still live there.” We high-fived in acknowledgement of Clive being another Vancouverite.
“My father was in advertising and my mother was a stay at home mother. My father did some really great work. You might even be old enough to remember a couple. Have you heard the slogan ‘At Speedy You’re a Somebody?’ Yeah? My Dad wrote that," he said proudly.
"The other one you might know is a jingle that went ‘Wonderful, wonderful, Wonderbra,’” he said, with a lilt in his voice. Of course to show that I knew it, I had to sing it back to Clive.
“Yeah! That’s it,” he exclaimed.
“I’m an only child. As a kid, I always wanted to have a brother or sister to talk with and have around. As an adult, I realize that being an only child gave me certain advantages, in life and in business,” Clive told me.
“I learned a specific way in which to be independent. I didn’t need help from other people. The success I have in business today, is because of what I did. And of course the people who work for me. But I learned that I didn’t need to rely on others, to make my own success.”
“Nothing really stands out for me about school. I wasn’t a great student. I became very good at spending time in the Principal’s office. You know, long hair, black leather jacket, jeans,” he said, smiling through his memories. In his late teens, Clive’s life came to a fork in the road. He took the right turn.
“I never went to college or university. I got a job as a fishing guide. I liked it, and did that for some time. One of my clients was a successful business man. He knew a lot about the stock market. He told me I should go work for him. But I wasn’t really that interested. Then I thought about it, and decided I didn’t want to be a fishing guide forever. Some of the guys I went to high-school with were working in finance. So I went to work for this client from the fishing guide days. I got one of the lowliest jobs in his company. But he taught me everything he knew about business, finances and about the stock market,” said Clive.
“Over the years I went to work for a number of different companies and continued learning. In around 2000, I started my own company, and then I sold that and started another. I’m an executive of my own company now. I've been doing this all for about twenty-five years now,” he said. I asked Clive if he liked what he does.
“Yeah. After twenty-five years you know, it can get a bit stale. In my business if things are good, then it’s a good business. And it things are bad, then it’s a bad business. It has it’s ups and downs.”
A group of business men cross the street and walk in our direction. Clive exchanges a hello and a wave with one of the gentlemen.
“He’s a client of mine. From Germany actually.” The man waves back and continues walking. I ask if Clive knows many people from his school days.
“You know, I do. Most of my very close friends are people I’ve known since then,” he says.
We chat about the comfort of good friends, in a group or individually. There's a level of trust and comfort that comes with long-term friendships.
“I know all sorts of people, from all backgrounds, and in all industries. From ex-drug addicts and sober alcoholics, to wealthy business guys with a couple homes and three cars. They run the gamut. I’m lucky, I have a lot of very good friends.”
“People really need to get back to connection and talking to people. I tell young people ‘Put the phones down and talk.’ I have a good friend and she’s a little obsessed with Instagram. We were out at lunch and she kept picking it up and looking at it. I told her if there was someone that she’d rather be spending time with, I could get up, go, and leave her alone. She apologized and put her phone down,” he said, smiling with a slight shake of his head.
We chatted about technology. I mentioned how I used to get excited to open my front door and see if there was a red blinking light on my answering machine. Or not. His phone rang, and I told him I was in no hurry, to go ahead and take the call.
“I’ll just be minute. I have to take this.”
Clive says hello to the caller, and it’s clear they know each other.
“Listen,” he says.
“Were your ears burning? I was just talking about you. I’ll tell you all about it. But I can’t talk right now, can I call you back in fifteen minutes. No, I can’t right now. Okay, five minutes. How's that? I’ll call you back in five minutes. Okay, yeah. Bye,” he says, with a chuckle.
“That was my friend, the one with Instagram that I was telling you about.”
Clive chooses his own clothes and does his own shopping.
“I’m not always dressed like this. Often times it’s a navy blue or dark suit. But it was supposed to be a nice sunny day today, so I thought I’d wear this,” he says. I complemented him on his cufflinks, made from what looked like ancient coins or small medallions.
“That's about it for me then,” he says. “Nothing really that much to tell.”
I asked Clive, in one breath, had he ever been married, had a significant relationship, or any children. He looked away, turning his head towards the water of Coal Harbour that was a couple of blocks away. He started to speak, but didn’t say anything. Nothing came out each time he went to speak.
“I, uh.” He stopped. I sat quietly, and didn’t say a word. I sat waiting for him, listening.
“Well, I. Uhm.”
His voice cracked and I could almost hear the lump of emotion he swallowed down.
“I recently broke up with a woman I am absolutely madly in love with,” he managed to sputter out while maintaining his composure.
“And as you can see, it’s not been easy for me,” said Clive. He removed his glasses and wiped away a tear from the outer corner of his right eye. He looked at me, and I just nodded.
“We’d been together for twenty-five years. We have four children. It’s been about seven months now,” he said, regaining control of his voice. He wiped at his right eye once again. Clive told me that he had become so involved in his work, that it was somewhat isolating.
“We have lunch still. In fact we’re meeting for lunch today. I’m just coming from a conference and then off to meet (her) for lunch. We still hug and kiss each other hello when we see one another. I had lunch with her last week. It’s also hard because not only is she the nicest, kindest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever met. She’s stunningly beautiful too,” says Clive, reaching for his phone.
He scrolls through a couple of photographs and turns his phone towards me.
“Now go ahead and tell me. Is this not one of the hottest looking woman, that you’ve ever seen?” Indeed, the camera did not lie. She is a radiantly beautiful woman. He looks at the photo again before putting his phone away. While unsure of the outcome, they are working on their relationship.
I ask to take Clive’s photo and then get a message that my phone is full. I have to ask Clive if he can wait while I delete a bunch of older, already backed-up images from my phone. This is one of my constant struggles. Too many photos.
We chat like friends while I’m doing this. We speak of connection and talking to people. And listening. Life lessons, his children, who range in age from seventeen to twenty-five. I manage to clear enough space on my phone to take two pictures. How is that you delete one hundred photos and can only take two more. It’s a modern day, rhetorical question, really.
I take Clive’s photo and he stands up, ready to head off to his lunch date. I thank him for his time, and tell Clive where the story will be posted so he can check on it.
“Thank you, Colin. It was really nice speaking with you. Thank you for taking an interest in me. That's what we need to do. Take more of an interest in one another.”
As I write this, it’s now almost 11pm, and I didn’t go for a run, nor did I actually even walk home from downtown (it was starting to rain after all). I did however, not buy any cookies today. Small steps. Celebrate the five percent. #notastranger