I had my first paper delivery route exactly forty-four years ago next month. I took over the route two days after John Kennedy was assassinated – I remember both events very well. Forty-four years of work history and my place of employment was never more than two miles from my home. If I drove my car on the weekends I would put about 7,000 mile per year on the vehicle.
In 1985 my company sent me to a training program at the IBM Management Institute on Manhattan Island. A colleague and I flew to New York and took a cab to our hotel, the Doral Inn in downtown Manhattan. We walked to our class every day – I think it was about six blocks. Every morning while walking we would observe people coming up out of the subways, four abreast, and the line stretched back to Kansas. Every evening we watched the herding of the cattle back into the subways. One evening we rode the subway just to experience it – talk about hicks in a big city.
We were the only two in the class who were not from New York. We were surprised to learn that we were also the only two who owned our own vehicles. Some of those people did not even have driver’s licenses. They thought we were weird, we thought they were.
One of the exercises in team work was a Survivor scenario on a Caribbean Island. You plane goes down or your ship wrecks and they give you a list of fifty things you can take with you – but you can only take ten – you have to choose and you have to give a reason. We did the exercise individually and then in teams. The point of the exercise was to show that teams always make better decisions than individuals. My Missouri buddy and I consistently scored higher than the others on the individual rankings. I remember working in teams where everyone gave their rationale for their selection of items. These were clearly city folks who had no idea about survival in the wilds. We are all products of our culture.
We were there for Advanced Project Management, but we used the evenings to sight see around town. We did the traditional top of the Empire State Building thing and went to a comedy club, I think it was called, “Catch a Rising Star.” While walking back to the hotel from the Comedy Club we were propositioned by professional prostitutes – that was my first direct experience with a prostitute – I think she was from Iowa, corn fed.
We went for a walk in Central Park as the sun was setting. A police car was driving on the wide sidewalk, right behind us. We finally stopped and asked why they were following us. They were wondering what we were up to, walking in Central Park at night, they thought we were bad guys. They told us to go back to our hotel. We went.
I watch the news and they talk about mass transit, light rail, subways. This is fascinating to a small town boy like me. I have been around the world. I have been on the subways in London and Paris, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Atlanta.
I was riding the ‘Underground’ in Atlanta and there was an old woman sitting beside me. In my small town way I said, “It is a nice day, don’t you think?” She said, “Today is my birthday. I am eighty years old. Every year on my birthday I ride the bus and the subway around town.” She smiled and looked out the window, pondering the changes in her life.
P.S. The prostitute took my arm and said, “Want to have a good time?” I was probably obviously shocked, my expression probably said “YIKES!” – I looked at her and she had so much make-up on that she looked like she was wearing a mask. She had a black leather mini-skirt and a tight blouse. I said, “No thanks.’ We walked into the lobby of the hotel, it was about 1:00 AM, and a prostitute was coming off the elevator, straightening her skirt. I am such a hick!