Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Memory

     This squib from dearest Adrienne brought it back:

     After a doctor's appointment yesterday, I stopped into a local eatery for breakfast. I generally have a book with me for such occasions. While I was reading and sipping my coffee a nice man came up and said, "It's so nice to see someone actually reading a book instead of having their face glued to a phone."

     I know the feeling, and yet...and yet...

     Some years ago...all right, it was in 1983...I spent six months in California, consulting with a company in Los Angeles. A short-term consultant often lives out of a leased hotel room and eats his dinners at some restaurant. At the time I was in my “must learn absolutely everything ever known about economics” phase, so whenever I went out to eat dinner, I’d bring an economics book: Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Carl Menger, Vilfredo Pareto, Murray Rothbard, Frank Fetter, Janes Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, Mancur Olson, Milton Friedman, you name it. Not what you’d call light reading, but as I said, it was a phase. I’m better now...mostly.

     I spent approximately 180 days doing that: sitting down to dinner in some restaurant, ordering something modest, opening a book while awaiting my order, and straining to learn something. And each and every time, within about ten minutes someone – male, female, a couple, or an entire extended family – would come by and ask me:

  • What I was reading;
  • Whether it was interesting;
  • Was I from out of town;
  • Would I like to join him / her / them instead?

     Honest Injun: I never finished dinner alone. (I also learned very little economics.) And in not one instance was I unhappy about it; all my acquaintances were exceedingly pleasant and hospitable. (We usually wound up talking about work – mine – but hey, it was 1983.)

     Perhaps it was just that way at that time in Southern California. During my extensive travels as a real-time consultant, I never had even one comparable experience anywhere else. And I haven’t had one in any subsequent visit to L.A., either.

     Back then, of course, the Kindle hadn’t yet been invented. I wonder if my experiences would have been the same if it were otherwise?

     Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis. And not always for the better. But I cherish that memory, and those fleeting acquaintanceships.

1 comment:

Adrienne said...

You called me dear. It made me warm all over. Thank you.

The nice gentleman didn't ask what I was reading. It was Edith Wharton's 1924 publication The Writing of Fiction. Brilliant lady.