My first time in the middle east: Dubai.
A new client, new programme, new timings, their schedule (where we are unexpectedly helping out due to sharp turn in circumstance). We were supposed to go out last night following class to do our research work, but a number of the team couldn’t make it, so we re-scheduled for tonight at the last second.
We take a car to the hotel, idle in traffic, wait an extended time for one of the party to freshen up and then – purely when the whole mini-caravan is ready – ship out with a stroll to the venue. A research trip it most definitely is. (Admittedly it might appear more like air-quotation and theatrical wink “research.” Like “testing” the “all you can eat” buffet. Or seriously exploring if “Happy Hour” really is enough to make one cheerful.) So here we are in the fully-paid-up-bonkers – in so many ways – Dubai Mall in the name of work. We wander discreetly among the hoards with firm mission, strong intent but sans schedule.
Presently we corral at the plush sofas on the gently rarefied concourse near to the Burberry store to compare notes on luxury brand performances, our interpretations, reflections and conclusions.
Effectively, then, you find me sat on a random couch, outside a place I’d usually not visit, at a random time, in a random place on – to me – a new, random continent.
Within seconds of taking the weight off, I arise, take all of 10 steps forward, tap a fella on the shoulder and as he turns I quietly say…
“Small world eh John?”
“Mister Beer… Let me introduce you to _____ _______ from _______.”
My experience of John? Always the calm, collected character, with that wholly admirable grasp of situations. Understated and measured. Cool. So naturally he greets me like we saw each other last Tuesday and swiftly includes me in conversation with his client nary skipping a beat.
John: you’ve not lost it.
Especially since we consider the facts. I last saw John around five years ago for a quiet early Tuesday curry in Rusholme, Manchester, planet England (near where he resides). We worked together at the turn of the century and stayed in touch for many years.
We converse for a few moments, with John informing his dinner partner that I have recently been to India of late and am in the UK as infrequently as he is. (The other side of John: social media stalker.) We agree to – genuinely – catch up and that’s it: I go back to my team, John & co take a table at a nearby restaurant.
Whilst this seems an unlikely story, let me tell you: this kind of thing happens more often than you think…