The plane wheels touch down on a La Guardia airport runway. It’s my first trip to New York City and I am eager and excited for all that the next few days might hold. Yes, there will be business meetings for the most part, but it’s Manhattan! This isn’t television or movies or a book. I’m here to experience the shops, the landmarks, the sights and sounds for myself!
The ride from the airport to my hotel has me looking out the windows looking for a glimpse of anything I might recognize. And yet, what captivates me is the delightful conversation with my driver. We exchange stories about our families and we laugh at how similar our life experiences have been, even though we are miles and cultures apart.
My first evening includes a walk to Times Square where, with no sense of self-consciousness or shame, I take pictures like every other tourist on the street. I soak in the sight of street performers, blazing neon signs, and people in every imaginable size, age, dress, and nationality. And yet, what stays in my mind is the experience in the elevator when I was going downstairs to go out. Two men who entered after me, both stepped aside to allow me to exit before them. The unexpected courtesy astounds and delights me!
The next morning I’m up early and dressed for meetings, waiting at the bank of elevators to go out and begin my day. My elevator stops on nearly every floor to pick up people also dressed for the business day. On one floor, the elevator across from mine is also stopped with its doors open. As I look up, I see a man on the opposite elevator looking up and we make eye contact. We share a momentary smile, a friendly acknowledgement of each other, as our respective doors slide closed.
After the first day of meetings, I go to dinner at a restaurant in Grand Central Station with colleagues I have just met that day. Grand Central is huge, breathtaking, and there is more picture-taking. The conversation turns from work to personal interests. Two of us find we have very similar interests, so we go for drinks afterward to continue our conversation. An unexpected friendship is formed.
I’m home now. The meetings were successful and very productive. I have tons of memories and a phone full of pictures. The restaurants lived up to their reputations and the food was delicious. And yet I am feasting on the smaller moments. Laughter with a driver, gentlemen on an elevator, a shared smile elevator to elevator, the start of a new friendship: these make up the meal I will remember in a New York minute.