When in Doubt, Improvise

improv

Upon joining the gig economy in 2017, I encountered the same lesson over and over: you don’t know what you don’t know. For the Muggles among us, those lessons can hide in plain sight, like a wizardly portkey, but you can stumble into them, and in turn, be transported into situations in which the rules you do know do not apply–especially when you’re just building your professional community. In these situations, there’s little more that you can do than to be magnanimous and improvise.

Late last year, I set up lunch through a former colleague with the publisher of a conglomerate of trade magazines at an Irish Pub–his recommendation, based on the always-available parking. I arrived in a moderately good mood, slightly flustered that I was not able to establish a meeting nearby either before or after lunch. It’s about a 30-minute drive from my house to the Detroit Shoreway of Cleveland, so I like to have a to-do-in-the-city list at least two items long.

Jeff and I found each other in the lobby, took our seats and, when the waitress came over to take our drink order, Jeff checked his watch and said, “Well, I’m not getting any younger, so I’ll have a pint of Conway’s Irish Ale.” I knew, of course, about the three-martini lunches of yesteryear, but I’d never ordered anything at a business lunch other than a coffee or a soda. And yet: this wasn’t a business lunch. Jeff and I had a common friend. Jeff also had a seemingly carefree regard for his own to-do list that afternoon. Plus: we weren’t conducting business. We were getting to know each other and, as far as Jeff was concerned, that included the prospect of a round of pints.

goble
“A goblet of fire? No thanks, but I’ll take a goblet of Irish ale.”

I looked up from the menu to the waitress and said, “Well, I don’t want my friend here to drink alone, so I’ll have a pint of Conway’s, too, please.” When the pints arrived, we toasted the power of the written word, and I dined leisurely on my shepherd’s pie. It took me awhile to recognize it, but Jeff offered me a valuable lesson that afternoon: yes, you have to hustle, but you also have to know when moderation is appropriate. And sometimes moderation arrives in 20 oz. servings of locally brewed goodness.

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