Assume The Best

It’s 2014. I’m on a rooftop in NYC, surrounded by 8 or 9 strangers. I silently write a name on the back of my business card then slide it across the table to the lady in the white dress.

“Who are you thinking of?” I ask mysteriously.

“My husband, Kevin.” she says.

I gesture to the card. She turns it over.

Everyone loses their shit.

It’s this past summer in Orlando. I’m working a trade show. A young man nervously asks me to read his mind.

I stare into his eyes and say “Does the number 13 mean anything to you?”

He stays quiet and stares at me for what feels like an eternity. Then, almost imperceptibly, he mutters under his breath.

“No fucking way.”

It’s 2016. I’m on a small stage in a hot room in Connecticut. A roomful of adults look on.

My volunteer is dressed to the nines. A New Yorker, she is clearly cynical about the proceedings. She keeps a poker face and refuses to give anything away. I’m sweating.

I pace the stage, doing my best to stay in control. Then I lean in and whisper something into her ear.

And she breaks down. Tears roll down her cheeks and she shakes from pure joy. She gives me a hug and the audience breaks into spontaneous applause.

I nix my finale. Nothing will top that moment.

A friend approached me after a show recently and said “Man, that one guy was a jerk!”

I had no idea who they were talking about. Yes, some volunteers hadn’t reacted as well as others and some were more cooperative than most, but they all seemed to enjoy it.

My friend thought the volunteer in question was being rude, but I just thought they were being themself.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my job it’s that amazement means something different for different people in different places. Whether I’m doing a small cocktail party or a huge theater full of people, it’s something I always try to remember.

Some people react internally. Some people scream and run. And some people don’t react at all. They just stare back, completely blown away.

My job has taught me to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the barista is being impatient because they had a flat tire this morning. Maybe the man on the street just had a family member pass away. Maybe the valet is an introvert and the bellhop is a morning person.

No matter who it is, I just assume they’re giving me their best.