Friday, March 24, 2006

Lurch -- The Genius

So by now you know that I spend a great deal of my time at various coffee shops. People have commented that I talk about being at a coffee shop so much that I must either own the place or have a serious serious problem with caffeine. I admit nothing as it relates to the caffeine but don't own any of the java joints I frequent....though I likely should have stock by now!

The one coffee shop that is near my home office is this quaint little place that serves as my second office. This was the location that I wrote much of my book in the fall of 2004. It's the place you will find me most mornings shortly after they open at 6AM pounding on the very computer I am writing to you on now. I love watching people as they come in the door, yawning, wiping sleep from their eyes and in desperate need of a jolt of something that will allow them to take on the day ahead. The morning crowd is fun to watch but it's a guy that catches my attention in the afternoons that I want to concentrate on today.

Many an afternoon I come in after my day of meetings to get a little pick me up. I spread out my "stuff" on the table as I wait impatiently for my Tablet PC to power on and connect with the free WiFi so I can check my email. Almost without fail "he" walks over. I call him Lurch....yes like the one from The Adam's Family.

" do you like that thing" he asks inquisitive as ever. He impatiently waits, tapping his foot, and swaying back in forth as he waits for your head to raise from the table and acknowledge him. Sometimes, he asks the same question twice in quick succession assuming you didn't hear him.

It's always the same question. He always asks about the same Tablet PC computer that I have had since he first saw me almost two years ago. Every single time, the same strange approach, the same question. It's his thing. It's his way.

I used to be annoyed by this interruption. Though I am always polite and always answer the exact same way with the exact same answer, it never seems to register. He doesn't ever let on that we have ever seen one another let alone talked about my Tablet PC before. And when you answer he will give you the run down of all of the technology he owns, all of the ones he would like to own and that no matter what, he won't ever get a Tablet PC. Unreliable technology he says. Same conversation, different day, same end result.

There is something different about him. Purely by observation, he doesn't demonstrate what one might define as normal behavior. He apparently shows up at the shop just before lunch virtually every day and brings two laptops and a stack of books and spends in excess of $50 a day on Expressos, sandwiches and Gelatos. He spends the majority of the day focusing on charts, graphs and mounds and mounds of data he appears to study and absorb. He writes, he draws, he mumbles constantly to himself. He is truly odd but strangely cool at the same time.

Generally Lurch, leaves our brief interaction and moves on to other patrons...similar questions, generally the same aloof approach. Depending on how busy the shop is depends on how many conversations he has but the more people the more he seems to thrive and come out his shell. He generally makes the rounds and returns to "his" place on the couch. He is completely harmless, I know but I can sense that he makes others nervous. Those that won't recognize him for what he is.

Until recently I have never seen anyone spend more than a few minutes with him. I have seen people be rude to him, I have seen people completely ignore him and of course people that converse with him out of pity. It is fascinating actually to watch it as it happens and I actually find myself being disappointed when he isn't there on the afternoons I come in. I sort of count on the conversation and the floor show as he makes the rounds.

Over the past few months, I have seen a huge number of "afternooners" coming in to the shop and stopping and conversing with him. They seem to have deep, intellectual albeit hushed conversations with him which seemed like a complete shift in how some of these people viewed him. Was it that they finally grew as comfortable with him and his odd behavior as I had or was there something more. Something had happened and I wasn't quite sure what.

Today I watched Lurch, who's real name I have now learned is Mike, spend about two hours helping a young woman with her college math homework. Somehow he sensed her frustration as she worked quietly from her table. He noticed, walked over, sat down and proceeded to explain the theory to her in such a unique and clear way that even I could understand it. Clearly I was watching genius in action and I was blown away!

After the young woman thanked him and left, I walked over to Lurch and sat down. He said hello and started the conversation with the same question about my Tablet PC just like always.

I had to laugh out loud and attempted to ignore the question altogether. I explained what I had just witnessed and what I had seen over the past two years and attempted to get to know him just a little better. We talked as if we were old friends. After a while I had to ask him why he always asked me about my Tablet PC the same exact way, every single time he saw me. He gave me an answer that I never expected nor anticipated.....He said, "I ask you the same question every time because I was hoping you might have something other than the same old answer to give to me. Up until today, you never have."

Two years and a lot of wasted opportunities while I was in the apparent presence of genius. Clearly the other "afternooners" had gotten it and I hadn't! My Bad!!!

I need to get busy...I have a lot of time to make up for and apparently I need to take my own advice of not judging a book by its cover. Even if that cover is oversized and Lurch-ish!

Ripple On My Friends!!!

Steve Harper

P.S. If you are in Austin, we have our 8 Minute Ripple coming up on April 4th. Please sign up at Hurry as the early registration ends soon!!!!

1 comment:

Asha said...

I think sometimes we put too much emphasis on the superficial and dont take the time to really connect with people for who they are. And sometimes our own judgement stands in the way of really getting to know a wonderful person. This can happen in our personal life as well as business. So I think this hugely beneficial when we are looking for new clients or even new friends. They may not "look" exactly the way we think they should.
Thanks for sharing this story, because I find I have done this numerous times myself and it reminds me to be more open.