Full disclosure: This was not one of my finer moments.
I was in New York recently for meetings and walked to Starbucks for my morning “starter.” As I was standing in line, a call came in from someone I had been trying to connect with for a few days. I took the call. Two minutes later, it was my turn to order and I was trying to do so without interrupting my caller. The cashier couldn’t understand my order, so I tried again.
Then the tall, lanky guy behind me in line looked at me and said, “Hang up your (expletive) phone and order.”
Stunned, I asked my caller to give me a second and placed my order, adding “and please let me pay for my friend’s drink,” pointing to the man behind me. I’ll admit I felt pretty good about myself and I walked to the end of the bar and continued the call. A few seconds later, he walked down and stood right next to me. I made eye contact, expecting a thank you. Instead, he continued:
“I don’t know where you’re from, but in New York, you don’t do that (expletive). You hang up your (expletive) phone.”
I finally asked my caller if I could call back. He’d heard the background conversation and understood.
Looking at the man, I said: “I walked away once. I don’t walk away twice.” He stepped back and started looking me up and down. I asked what he was looking for. “I’m looking to see if there’s anything on you that will tell me where you work,” he said. The woman making our coffees then offered a slight joke: “I think you’ll find out in the police report,” she said to the man.
Coffees were delivered, but as I said, this wasn’t my finest moment. I walked outside the Starbucks and stood by the door. I’m not sure what I was going to do, but I wasn’t quite ready to let this go. The tall, lanky guy stayed just inside the door, staring at me and not coming out. I waited a couple of minutes, mostly realizing how stupid I was being, then just as I turned to walk away, the man burst through the door, ran across the street and, as he did so, yelled a few more expletives at me. There was no way I could have caught him, but instinct had me take a first step in that direction.
Just then, an African-American man with dreadlocks and baggy clothes grabbed my arm. Startled, I looked at him and he said “Where did you get that Starbucks?” The question threw me off because I could have sworn I had seen him inside Starbucks just a few minutes earlier. “Right here,” I said incredulously, pointing to the Starbucks sign.
“I know. I was just trying to take you out of the moment,” he said, nodding to the man who was now a half-block away.
Then he looked me in the eye and said: “Don’t let others take you to where they are. Go and have a nice day.” He walked away and my less-than-golden moment became golden.
Ever had a moment remotely similar?