Five minutes into the meeting, the man rose from his seat and started to change his clothes.
There was a new tie to fasten and a different jacket to pull up his long arms and he spent several minutes rustling his hair while looking in a mirror against the wall and smoothing his collar. All the while, he murmured slight noises to signal recognition that someone was talking to him.
And then he started to leave.
“Sorry,” he said. He pointed at his assistant. “She’ll finish up with you.”
And then he was gone.
It was a jarring experience and my colleague and I struggled to act as if nothing had happened. The assistant cleared her throat and we tried to go on. But we all know nothing was going to come of this.
Fast forward to last weekend.
My family was invited by some acquaintances to attend a Halloween party and told to “come in costume and bring the kids!”
We showed up Saturday to a beautiful neighborhood and a house and deck full of a wide variety of revelers.
There were elderly neighbors, rambunctious kids in a bounce house, and even a “best-friend’s-ex-wife’s new husband” among those stirring bowls of chili and enjoying chicken fingers and cocktails.
I was dressed as the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz and while dropping off my youngest at the backyard bounce paradise, I came face-to-(silver-painted-Tin-Man)-face with that same guy who had made the infamous exit from our meeting in the not-so-distant past.
There is a good chance he would never have recognized me. Not only was he obviously distracted the last time we met, I was not looking so much like myself.
But as I have preached before, I am a big fan of “leaning into the awkward.” On the off chance he DID realize we’d met before, I wanted to be the one to say it out loud. So I called him by name, stuck out my Tin-Man-hand and reminded him that we’d attempted to do business together once.
I wish I had a painting of the look on his face. He had very little to say in response, so I turned and walked to the deck. (Someone had just yelled about free White Castle.)
The guy left less than 30 minutes later, but he made a point to wave upon his exit.
Fast forward to today.
I just looked at the schedule for a small event I am part of next month and realized this same person will be a featured guest there.
I already have my icebreaker ready.
The moral of this story? Life is too short to worry about what you are wearing.