I boarded my connecting flight last week, eased into my aisle seat in row 25, and unzipped my bag to pull out my laptop.
But it wasn’t there.
You know the feeling when a sudden crisis hits. Your brain goes into rapid-fire. Here’s the staccato of thoughts that coursed through my head, all in a split second:
Where is it? . . . It’s still under your seat on the plane you just got off!
That plane is going to take off and return to Salt Lake City in ten minutes!
The hardware is replaceable – but it will cost $2K!
The files for this trip’s speeches are backed up on Google Drive – but you don’t want to deal with borrowing a computer and stuff not working.
This aisle and jetway are full of people to climb over – but every second that passes it will get worse.
It’s crazy how you open your mind to a principle and the universe keeps giving you chances to learn more about it. Last week I wrote you about diminishing words like “just reaching out” and “sorry to bother you.” Writing or talking that way weakens the perceived value you have to offer journalists and coworkers.
And then here comes this crazy experience while making that connection in the Atlanta airport (why does this stuff keep happening on trips to Atlanta?).
I am not the type of guy who muscles his way into things. I do not line up for doorbusters on Black Friday. I do not edge my way in front of other people so I can get off planes faster, even when I have a tight connection.
But in that split-second when I resolved to GO GET THAT LAPTOP OFF THAT PLANE, I had a conviction firm enough to do something that normally would have made me uncomfortable. In this case, it didn’t embarrass me at all.
I threw my bag over my shoulder, picked up my roller suitcase with both hands, and just bulldogged my way up the aisle. “Excuse me . . . pardon me . . . I need to get off the plane . . . thanks so much.” Banging shoulders the entire way.
It’s amazing how much room is actually in those aisles when you push the limit. Took about 10 seconds.
You’d think people would be offended or at least annoyed. But nobody was. When I looked at their faces as they saw me coming, there was no frustration. They just leaned out of the way. After a few seconds, the people in the front of the plane started stepping out of the aisle. The flight attendant even threw my suit jacket to me from the closet, otherwise I would have forgotten it.
It was like they all assumed, “Wow, he must have a really good reason to get off this plane” and didn’t judge. If anything, the expressions they gave me were more like, “Hope everything turns out okay.”
I got on the train back to the A Terminal, then ran the length of it (of course the gate was all the way at the end). Arrived just in time to see the gate agent seal the jetway door shut.
She looked at me scared, assuming I had just missed the flight and would be ticked at her.
Lungs heaving, I wheezed out, “Laptop?”
Her face softened into a smile, and she walked over and pulled it out from under her desk . . . where she had placed it after the kind, unknown fellow traveler had turned it in.
I knew I had a good reason for acting like I did. And because I demonstrated that knowledge through my words and actions, the people around me believed that I did, too.
It’s the same when you write your follow-up emails. If you view it as simply “following up” because you have to, and even use those very words, “follow up,” it rarely works. The recipient has no reason to believe there is anything different about your outreach from the hundreds of other formulaic emails he’s received recently.
But if you really believe in your story, and that to the best of your knowledge it will help him do his job better, then you don’t hedge your language to avoid offending or annoying. You simply state what you have to offer. Your certainty of purpose comes across. Whether he accepts your idea or not, he doesn’t think less of you for offering it.
P.S. I got rebooked on the next flight, and three hours later I was eating barbecued ribs in Memphis.