Close Encounter of the Branson kind
(Story previously published in Winnipeg Free Press)
To go after what you want in life, it helps to have some guts, a little luck, good timing, and some decent cards to play. All of which I had one recent fateful morning.
Sir Richard Branson was visiting my hometown, and I had tried my darnedest to arrange an opportunity for some face time. My ‘insider’ was radio host Ace Burpee, who I’ve known since we worked at the same summer camp eons ago. We often help each other out, so if there was a chance to meet Sir Richard, Ace could make it happen.
But alas, it looked like not even Ace could pull this one off. From what I understood, business leaders were lining up to acquaint with Sir Richard, even paying good money (donated to charity) for meeting time. I hadn’t a hope in hell.
Meeting Sir Richard is actually on my ‘bucket list’. Now, he was going to be in my city, and I had no way to connect. Bummer! Oh well, maybe one day. The bucket list would wait.
Having already resigned myself to gazing from a distance, the day of Sir Richard’s visit rolled around. Getting ready that morning, I switched the radio to the station that brought him to town. Ace was broadcasting his usual morning show live on location, and mentioned he was going to be joined by a special guest – Sir Richard himself. In person. On location. Raising money for RaY Winnipeg (Resource Assistance for Youth).
At that moment, three things dawned on me: one, Ace was broadcasting on location, and not locked away in some security-guard protected fortress. Two, coincidentally, that location happened to be on my way to work. And three, me, who never carries cash, happened to have a crisp new one hundred dollar bill in my purse that I could donate.
Should I?? Could I??? My voice of prim and proper reason said “No, absolutely not, don’t even think about it.” But my adventurous rebellious voice shouted “Why the hell not? What have you got to lose??”
Since adventurous voice is typically the louder more insistent one, I began leaning that way. Yet, I wasn’t 100% sure it would be cool. So I texted Ace. “If I come down to your location can I meet him??”
My pulse raced as I waited for the response. Reason-voice spoke up again. “What in the world are you thinking? You’d better not.”
Then Ace texted back four little words: “Give it a shot.”Boom! That did it for me. “Screw it!” I told reason voice, “I’m gonna do it.”
“Woo hoo!” cheered adventurous voice, “Let’s go!” And off we went.
I arrived at the hotel where the live broadcast was happening, smack dab in the middle of rush hour traffic. No parking here, no stopping there. Shoot! What to do?
“Pull into the hotel driveway!” insisted adventurous voice, which had now become bossy. So I listened, and parked my car in the valet area.
My heart pounded as I smiled my best smile at the valet. “I’ll be right back sir,” I said, “I have to deliver something to the radio broadcast.” Then I darted away, without waiting for his response. Obstacle one conquered.
Next hurdle, walk into the live remote room full of strangers. I felt relief at seeing Ace’s familiar face, sitting next to another famously familiar face – SIR RICHARD BRANSON HIMSELF! Wow, there he is. And here I am, standing merely 20 feet away. “Now what??” taunted reason-voice.
Hmmm, well, I hadn’t actually planned that far ahead. But before I could think about it, Ace came to my rescue. “Your timing is impeccable,” he said. He told me he was going to call me over, so I could meet Sir Richard and give my donation. This time both voices shouted in unison: “Hell yeah!”
The next 30 seconds happened so fast, and are a bit of a blur. Ace called me over, and his co-host Chrissy gave me the microphone. I said my name, gushed over Sir Richard, reached over to shake his hand, received a bonus kiss, and handed him my donation. Then it was all over. Just like that.Check one off the bucket list!
I wanted to wait and personally thank Ace, but suddenly the valet attendant appeared in front of me, with a panicked look on his face. “You have to move your car, you’re blocking traffic!” And off I went, with the biggest grin on my face and an absolutely priceless memory that only cost 100 bucks (to a good cause).
Later that day, at a luncheon where Sir Richard was speaking, he told the crowd that one of his mottos in life is “Screw it, just do it.” Very cool words of wisdom to live by, from a very cool, wise, and witty man. The very same motto I had embraced just a few hours earlier, and countless times before in my adventurous and unpredictable life.
While things don’t always work out, they sure did for me that Friday morning. I just did it, and all it took was some courage, impeccable timing, and a little bit of good luck.
Not to mention that Ace in my hand.