I'm composing this while sitting in the McDonald's restaurant in Keyser, West Virginia. I came here this morning to connect to their AT&T wifi hot spot to download some large updates for various software on my laptop. Being a nomadic person without a fixed sticks and bricks base of my own, I have to improvise to maintain my online connectivity. This is where the wonders of our fantastic technology afford me the lifestyle of a nomad while still being able to maintain Internet, fax and phone communication.
The reason I'm using the McDonald's AT&T wifi hotspot is that downloading (or uploading) large data files on my current limited monthly AT&T data plan through my cellular phone service consumes a LOT of data and ends up costing me overage charges. These public wifi hotspots are free to use. So, even though it can be a bit inconvenient to come sit at a Mickey D's or similar locations where free wifi is available, it saves me lots in date overage fees. It's simply an accommodation I have to make for myself. And, honestly, I don't mind.
One of the side benefits of these pilgrimages is that I get to mingle with some of the local folks wherever I happen to be. This is perhaps one of the best parts of my nomadic lifestyle. I do my best to avoid the major tourist and transient restaurants and other establishments in order to relish the local flavor. As I have been sitting here I have been eavesdropping on the conversation of a number of local men from this rural area as they discuss the current events of our government. There are all kinds of names in the conversation including Bush, Clinton, Obama, Romney, Reagan, some congressional names and so on. The topics seem to be mainly around the economy and the Middle East and, perhaps, some degree of subterfuge. I've overheard similar conversations in other parts of the country. Generally speaking, they tend to lean more conservative in the rural areas and more liberal in the larger city and outlying suburbs.
I also just spoke with a young man working here at this McDonalds. He was doing some of the ongoing clean-up chores and as he was working by my table he asked how I was doing and if everything was alright (I have been munching on a small low calorie - believe it or not - breakfast meal). I told him everything was very good. I was downloading some upgraded software and a new version of my anti-virus program at that time, so I was free to enjoy the conversation while the computer was doing it's work.
I asked if the young man was a student at the local college, a branch of West Virginia University. He said he was not. This was the best and only job he could find in the area and he needed to work to take care of his young daughter and his newborn child. Wow! That was refreshing. He said he had to drop out of high school to take on this responsibility. But, he continued on that he had already completed his G.E.D. I asked if he would go into the McDonald's management training program. He said that is not his goal. He is continually seeking a better job so he can get a place of his own and move his two children and his fiancée out of his parents home. He also indicated that he loved music and his aspirations are to become a music teacher. I asked, with a bit of tongue in cheek, when I might see him show up on one of the music programs on TV like The Voice or the American Idol. He said, he didn't know if that would ever happen, but never say never.
I found it very uplifting to have this conversation with this young man. Certainly, many of us of the older generation wonder what's going to become of our country in the hands of the last generation and the current up and coming generation. The sweeping generalization is that we're in big trouble. I'm sure our parents thought that about the Baby Boomers and their offspring. This young man left me with hope. I was also impressed that he introduced himself by name and I countered with my name and he left me to carry on his duties with a firm handshake. That made my morning.
I should also say that earlier this morning I had to send out a news email to the list of participants in the Veteran Speakers Retreat I've coordinated every year for almost a dozen years. The letter was to notify them of the death of one of the giants and pioneers in the professional speaking field, Christopher Hagerty. I met Chris a few times perhaps 27 to 30 years ago, but never had the opportunity to get to know him that well. While I have been sitting here at McDonalds, I was receiving feedback on the sad news when I received several emails from folks I know including the Executive Director of the National Speakers Association that I was a member of for 25 years.
The email from Stacy and the others alerted me to another sad bit of news. This morning, Zig Ziglar passed away at 86. I've known Zig for close to 35 years. He is probably one of the best known motivational, inspirational and sales training speakers in the country. He's also a best selling author of numerous books. While Zig and I were on a first name basis, I wasn't as close to him as I was to my dear, departed friend, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones who passed away about four years ago. Charlie and Zig were also great friends and colleagues on about the same par as far as international acclaim. But, Zig's passing marks the loss of another giant in the speaking profession. I just finished sending out another news email to the list I sent the earlier email out to about Chris Hagerty's passing.