This summer I spent 10 days in Palo Alto, having a kind of vacation where I do less work than usual, in a different location to usual, and the kids went off to summer camp. It was a pretty cool arrangement, and we’ve already decided to do the same next year.
One morning Jed and I dropped the kids off and took ourselves into Palo Alto to breakfast at one of the swanky yet relaxed cafe’s. All around us people were having meetings, one woman was pitching her startup and the investors in the room had slicked hair and collared shirts. There really isn’t any place quite like Silicon Valley.
I like to people watch, so I was keeping an eye on the two men at the table in front of me as they had their meeting. It seemed to go pretty well and after 20 minutes or so, they got up and went outside, shook hands on the footpath and then each turned in opposite directions and left.
About 2 minutes later, one of them came back. He just walked straight back in the cafe and took a new seat right at the back.
“Do you ever do that?” I asked Jed, who of course was oblivious to everyone and everything going on because he doesn’t stalk – I mean, notice – people like I do.
“Do I do what?”
“Pretend to leave a meeting but don’t? I mean, you know when you have meetings scheduled that are off-site, you probably tend to book them all back to back in a single location, right? So doesn’t that get a bit awkward? What if the person you are meeting with doesn’t get up and go? Do you pretend to leave so they go too?”
“No, I just tell them to leave.”
“Seriously? Isn’t that a bit rude? Telling people to just rack off? I think I’d do what that guy back there just did, and pretend to leave just so the social awkwardness doesn’t happen. But I hadn’t thought about the awkwardness of coming back in when everyone knows you just left. But I don’t think he noticed that I was watching him.”
“It’s kind of weird what goes on in your head, isn’t it?”
I guess it’s nice that Jed sees my thinking in a curious way – it keeps him interested. Am I really the only person who’d notice that someone left and then came back? What if he did it 5 times in the day? That’s more weird than me noticing someone doing it. I still can’t work out how to tell someone to leave – I guess you could do it when they first sat down, but that seems awkward if you don’t know the person. What if you’re pitching? You want to throw a VC or potential angel investor out of a cafe? (Actually, I don’t think you’d purposely put yourself in that situation.)
And yeah, I get that this is a freaky thing to think about. But really, what would you do?