Most of my posts are about senior care, real estate and business. But I hope you’ll indulge me for this post so that I can share a story that taught me a lesson about life and business.
Sometimes the sights you see on vacation are more meaningful than you would expect. That was the case while I was on a family vacation in Colorado this summer.
We were excited to travel up Pikes Peak on the Cog Railway. It would be an hour ride up the side of the mountain to the top some 14,000+ feet above sea level. Our excitement grew as we saw our train arrive at the station and unload passengers from the previous tour. We quickly jumped in line so we could find our assigned seats on the train.
Our seats turned out to be great. They were right in the front with super views out the window, and set up so that the four of us could face each other.
As the train filled, seats around us became occupied with tourists just like us. Then a group of young people, probably college students, began making their way down the aisle. Their enthusiasm (and volume) had me hoping that their seats were some distance away from us. But no. All six sat down right next to us, across the aisle.
The group was obviously more excited than our family. Cameras were pointing, laughter was continuous, and the energy level was off the charts.
When the train was almost full, the last few passengers were trying to find their seats, including an older gentleman that looked very unhappy. It was clear that his group had arrived late and taken the remaining single tickets, which scattered his group throughout the train. He was alone, among a hundred other tourists.
The older man stopped at our row and looked toward the college students. “You’re in my seat”, he said to one of the students. He had found someone to become the object of his frustration.
One of the college kids replied gently and respectfully, “the six of us are together and we were wondering if I could trade seats with you so that we can sit together”. “These are assigned seats” he shot back. For a brief second you could see him think to himself that trading seats might be the right thing to do. Then frustration returned. “That’s my seat and I don’t want to go off looking for another one.” There would be no more negotiation, so the college kid got up from his seat and started toward the rear of the train. The old guy sat down on the aisle with an angry look on his face.
The other five college kids didn’t seem to mind losing one of their friends to a distant seat. The laughter and excitement returned, and the train pulled out of the station. The old guy settled in for the ride, surely longing for ear plugs – and a seat by his wife.
If you haven’t taken the Cog Train to the summit of Pikes Peak, you really should. The views are amazing. The change in temperature is remarkable. The anxiety of the thousand foot drops beside the track can be a thrill. But the biggest payoff at the top of the mountain may be the donuts.
At the top of Pikes Peak there is a small shop and refreshment stand. One of the items on the menu is a special kind of donut that bakes at that altitude. It may not be better than any other low-altitude donut but everyone seems to take advantage of the excuse to buy one or three of those “special” donuts.
While my son and I were standing in line for our six pack of donuts, we saw the old man reconnect with his wife a few places behind us in line. He was still irritated but seemed to be ready for some consolation in the form of a few donuts. But his wife had a smile on her face and seemed excited to see him.
I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. “How was your seat?”, she asked him. “Loud” he replied.
His sour attitude seemed to bounce off her. “My view was OK but I had the nicest young man sit down next to me” she said. “We visited the whole way up the mountain. He’s in college and visiting here with friends”.
“What?” old guy said, a bit louder than he or she expected.
“Well, we were just visiting. He didn’t ask me out or anything”, she responded.
“No, no. That’s not what I meant”, he said.
The old guy came to realize that the same college kid who he made move was actually holding the ticket for the seat next to his wife. If he had just switched seats with the college kid, he would have been able to sit next to his wife after all.
While he was still thinking about how to switch seats back with the college kid his wife said “I’m sure looking forward to finsihing our conversation on the way back down the mountain.”
When we returned to the train for the ride back down, the old guy was back in his seat across the aisle from us and next to the loud college kids. His wife probably enjoyed the conversation with her new young friend, just like he enjoyed his donuts.
People watching can be one of the highlights of vacation. And watching this scene unfold was a highligh with a lesson. Don’t be quick to reject an offer – it might just be a better deal than you would imagine.