I hop into a cab tonight after work to head “home” from my client site to my hotel.
My client is a construction company, so the cab driver makes small talk by asking me: “so, how’s business?… Are you building a new building? Did you get the money?”
I laugh, “no, no; not me. I’m just a consultant… I don’t get to build the building… and I only take the money.”
He laughs, too. “That’s good! You take the money. That’s very good… It’s only not so good when you take the money and do not give enough in return.”
“Yes; we try very hard not to do that.”
After a moment, he asks: “what do you think of hotels?”
Unsure, I clarify, “the industry or the buildings themselves?”
“Well… in terms of the industry, I have a lot of respect for those in hospitality. I could never, ever do it – I don’t have the touch. It takes a certain personality that I don’t have, and I admire those who do.”
He says nothing, so I go on.
“In terms of the spaces, I have always felt that there was something lacking in hotels. The space is all wrong; impersonal.” I trail off a little, gaging this statement against him.
He nods. “There is no emotion, huh?”
“Yes!” I say, relieved that he agrees.
“There is no emotion; no feeling. There has to be feeling, you understand?”
I do understand. And so I nod, looking at him in the rearview mirror; he slows for a red light and we make eye contact.
“It’s just plastic walls and plastic smiles.” He says, a little sadly.
“Exactly.” I agree, matching his tone.
There is a pause.
“I ask you this because I used to own a hotel – in Greece; in Athens… I am so sad, now, that I do this… but with the crisis, there was nothing we could do.”
For a moment, we say nothing, as this hangs between us.
Finally, I offer: “Greece is beautiful. I was there last year.”
He asks where. I tell him. We talk about the regions of the country, and he tells me about his favorites and why.
“The penninsula” he says, “it is just like heaven. Just like heaven – the fruits and the plants and these beautiful monasteries and treasures from Constantinople. You understand?”
Truthfully, this time I do not understand. But I still nod and I still look him in the eye, in the rearview mirror, just the same.
After a moment, I ask, “why not open a hotel here?”
He says, “it’s not the same… It is exactly as we were saying before… There is no love in it, here.”
We are at another red light. He glances back at me.
“You have to love your work – you understand? You have to love… You have to feel your work in your heart… And only then, it is good work. If you love your work, it shows. But you must love. There is so much opportunity for you, if you only love.”
He is still looking at me, in the rearview. I look back at him.
And this time I do not nod along as though I understand. This time I am still, and only set myself to the task of trying very, very hard to listen.