I sat down for a conversation about architecture last week, with someone whom I prayed fervently would not remember me. Because the last time I saw him, I was dressed like this:
That’s me, second from the left, with some of my favorite people at the Cooke Street Carnival. It was our first foray into professional advice giving. (“Professional” is used loosely here. Technically we did charge for our services, but little enough that we each earned exactly enough to buy a cheeseburger at the end of the day. Fortunately, that was never the point.)
It was towards the end of the day, and a man and his teenaged daughter stopped by the Advice Booth for some random advice pulled out of the jar we had, plus cookies. We got to chatting in rocking chairs, and he mentioned he wasn’t too sure about his present path, and whether it was a “stay” or a “go.” I told him in order to give sound advice, I’d have to know what his current path was. “Architecture,”‘ he said.
“I’m afraid it might be a ‘go.” I told him. “It’s too soon to tell, but after exactly a year in this profession during a really, really miserable recession, I’m ready to consider other options.”
We got into a conversation about where I went to school, and where I worked, and three sentences in, the anonymity of the Advice Booth was no longer anonymous. For either party. The number of professional connections, three sentences in, was astonishing. We blinked at each other. I offered everyone another cookie.
“I feel like I might have just spilled all of my beans,” he said.
“I never saw you here,” I told him. “In fact, no speak-a ze inglish.”
So a mutual friend suggested that he and I chat about some potential projects, and we arranged the meeting over e-mail, and we sat down in a coffee shop. It was a pretty interesting discussion about the state of the profession, and where things were headed, and we agreed to stay in touch about some possible collaborations.
As I was standing up to leave, I thought I was in the clear.
We shook hands, and he said, “You know, the last time I saw you, you told my fortune.”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t remember that,” I told him.
“I can’t remember exactly what you said….”
“I said we should both bail on architecture,” I reminded him.
“I might have been three or four beers in at that point,” he said.
“Likewise,” I told him. “Those were different days, though. Recession was pretty brutal, right about then.”
“Well, yeah. It was. But things are looking up,” he laughed, and that was where we left it.
I wonder. Are things looking up?