While running errands this morning, I stopped at a local bank to meet with the branch’s investment manager. The sun was shining bright in the sky, and since I had no work meetings scheduled I allowed myself to dress (very) casually. I walked into his office wearing short pants and a t-shirt and couldn’t help feeling a little self-conscious. The banker was at least twenty years older than I am, mummified in a suit and tie, and really looked like, well…, an investment banker. He welcomed me in a serious face and suggested that we spend a little time discussing my finances. “This may be useful”, I thought to myself, “but it’s not going to be fun”.
Then, something unexpected happened. The conversation about my “numbers” quickly turned into a broader conversation about the economy, and how both of our families are dealing with it. In less than ten minutes we were leaning back in our chairs, ignoring the computer and the paperwork, and talking like old friends who met in a pub. While talking we also realized that we are both bikers and the banker shared some great riding roads up north that he knows, curving around lakes and forests (who knew bankers ride motorcycles?). We also discovered that we share a military background. He served in the Army during the Vietnam War, and we talked about how we both value our military experience as a milestone in shaping our values and thoughts. At some point we even talked about the guilt that people in the service feel when they survive combat. I don’t really remember how we got there… Finally, after thirty minutes of great conversation (which probably would have been much longer had banks provided beer) I left and went on with my day.
Getting into my car, I thought about this unusual positive experience. This guy seems really cool, and we may end up riding together on weekends. But if it weren’t for our shared financial concerns we would have never really talked to each other. The barrier of age, professional context, and dress code, would have simply been too high. The past few years have been bad for some and worse for others. Homes and jobs were lost, families fell apart, and once-buzzing Main Streets are now scarred with vacant stores. And while no one would choose to face the adversity of a stumbling economy, the psychological value of coming together is tremendous. Let’s hope that we manage to maintain this sense of togetherness when things finally bounce back. And let’s hope that happens real soon.