Be Careful What You Ask For

Apparently the saying, “The milk of human kindness” originated from Macbeth, which is appropriate as it is probably my favourite Shakespeare play. In order to put this into context we need to begin however at “Be careful What You Ask For”.

I have ‘heard’ myself say to several people lately, “I would rather lose my wallet than my phone”. I know better. I know we get what we ask for. And every time I said it, I cringed in that possibility. Yet I continued to say because I was also making a statement about my lifestyle.

I started a recent trip to the USA in the same way I usually do, catching the train from Newcastle to the International Airport in Sydney. I was headed for the Front End Innovation Conference in Boston. I am a guest at the conference so I blog and commit to social media activity while I am there.

An hour into the trip I discovered I didn’t have my phone. I let that reality play around in my head (and my stomach) for a few minutes before considering what options I had available. No immediate contact with my family, no ability to check emails quickly (I have my laptop but it’s not convenient for a quick check) and no ability to make quick social media posts. This aside from the fact that I have two major events happening that I am continuing to organise from the other side of the world.

There is an additional irony to this tale. Two days prior I had spent a couple of hours at the Apple Store while they replaced my phone. The phone had begun over-heating and switching itself off.

Act of Human Kindness (AoHK) #1. I asked the gentlemen sitting across the aisle from me if I could borrow his phone, explaining my situation. He didn’t hesitate to hand it over.

I phoned home (it was ridiculously early) because I couldn’t see through my ‘fear’ to ascertain if I had left the phone at home or in the taxi I caught to the station. My husband found the phone sitting on the bench where I had left it so I wouldn’t miss the text the taxi driver was going to send when they arrived. In an ironically synchronous moment, the taxi arrived as I wheeled my belongings to the front door so I began my journey forward without looking back.  At the bench. And my phone.

We discussed options; buying a phone at the airport; buying a phone in the US; who was leaving for Sydney that morning, or rather immediately (that one was “clutching at straws”, the origins of that saying perhaps a tale for another day). He decided to drive the phone down. Think for a moment what this meant. Outside of the wasted hours he would spend driving, I had no phone. Somehow we had to maintain contact.

AoHK #2, #3, #4, #5, #6 and #7 took place over the next few hours. He made the trip down the highway in good time. ETA at the airport 8:15am. I wasn’t boarding until 9:30am. All would be good with the world. Expect, of course, for the gridlock of traffic he encountered just before the turnoff to the airport. From that point on I found a kind stranger every 15 minutes who allowed me use of their phone – one even twice. And during a couple of the phone calls, the only message was that he hadn’t moved. At all.

Some might say that allowing me to use a mobile phone in the days of unlimited calls and texts is no major sacrifice. Sacrifice no, but trust and an act of empathy yes. Seven people took a chance that I didn’t have ulterior motives, that I wasn’t going to run off with their phone and that I wasn’t setting them up for something more sinister. But here’s the thing. The only person who refused my request actually didn’t have a phone and asked the stranger next to him if I could borrow his.

So if you find yourself reading this and you remember a dark haired woman on a Sunday morning at Sydney International Airport asking if she could use your phone, I thank you.

Everyone wished me the best and hoped my husband would make it.

And I knew that he would. And he did.

Christina is a Creativity and Innovation expert. As the founder of Ideation At Work, she opens hearts and minds to possibility, so that people are inspired to create a better world.

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