I spent last weekend with a bunch of strangers. They came in all forms obviously. There was the “summer” looking batch, complete with the accents and noses high up in the air.
There were the uptown sophisticated, “I will just play it cool and look great” kind.
The “born to party” chaps brought their loud know it all voices on. Your regular “corporate” Kampala person (I work hard, I gotta ‘eat’ my money), was also in sight as were those you could not really place in any bracket. These were basically there to make the most of the weekend.
I wonder where you would place your columnist, but let us just say, I was laying low, your fly on the wall and observing. From the time I got into the bus enroute one of the most beautiful destinations located in Western Uganda, my brain was ticking, my eyes watching.
At first there was nothing much to make of my neighbours in the bus. In fact, I was tempted to switch buses. However, the weekend taught me that as soon as you take the bold step to speak to a stranger, the world of great conversation becomes your oyster.
And boy were the conversations interesting right from politics to fashion, food, relationships and partying, you name it!
But one thing caught my attention. There is one question that sparks off unexpected responses. “What do you do? These four words sound like the simplest thing but you will be shocked at the reactions you get. I even found myself feeling guilty every time I asked some people this.
There we are engrossed in an amazing chat and rightfully so (or like those networking gurus preach) I want to know more about them. Typical of a journalist, I just throw it in there. “So what do you do?” There was always a pause first…I could feel the pulse of one woman rising. “Me?” She first said. Of course her duh!
“I do business.” This is a typical answer. I listen for more, but nothing except discomfort fills the air. Whatever happened to the elevator pitch? Then there were answers like, “I’m a farmer”, then silence.
Again I had the burden of asking, no, probing about the crops they grow excreta. Some people looked at me suspiciously when I asked what they do.
Silence, then slight frown and then quiet response. One person even asked back “why?” There are those who simply said, I work, without divulging details. Could “What do you do?” be one of the toughest questions?
Are many people too freaked out to talk about their business or professions? How easy can it be to chat about everything else but that one thing that could elevate you to the next level? I guess you can ask me about Dijkstra’s algorithm, quantum field theory, my age, but pray do not ask me what I do.