Downsizing: Jets vs. Sharks

TV imitates life.  The economy and the ills of the health care system set the scene for this season’s Gray’s Anatomy. In the first episode, we learn that financial difficulties have forced Mercy West from across town to merge with Seattle Grace, where Meredith, Christina, McDreamy, and assorted other characters work.   ER meets West Side Story.

This past week’s episode, “I Saw What I Saw,” highlights what hard times can do to our relationships.  It opens as docs of the two opposing gangs nervously await their turn to be questioned about an unnecessary death.  Through a riveting series of interviews and Rashomon-like flashbacks that follow, we learn that even in the face of a mass emergency–a hotel fire with multiple traumas–the newly merged staff members continue to rumble.  Every scene involves gossiping, back-stabbing, and jostling each other out of the way in order to get the “good” cases.  Yet, somehow, no one takes responsibility for the woman who died. Continue Reading »

A community of interviewees

This is the first time I’ve ever written a book where I’ve stayed in touch with my interviewees.   They’ve become my consequential strangers.  Renee, the hairdresser in Atlanta, prays for me.  Chuck, the ATC in North Dakota, raves about the book to the media guy at the National Association of Air Traffic Controllers and urges him to mention the book in an upcoming newsletter.  (He also made a video for me which you can check out on the Consequential Strangers group on Facebook.  Due to technical difficulties, I had trouble getting it on this site.)   And then there’s Gail, a cancer survivor, who’s taken a turn for the worse since I first met her.  She was recently given two months to live but has already surpassed the doctors’ prognosis.  I told her she was following in the footsteps of Art Buchwald, who’s also in the book.  Doctors gave him two weeks and he lasted more than seven months.  I wish that and more for Gail.

Why these lasting connections out of this book as opposed to other books and articles I’ve written in the past?  I suspect it’s the subject.  It strikes a chord in people, makes them realize that their connections are broader and more important than they realize.  It’s also an ongoing story.  Once they have the concept of “consequential strangers” in their heads, they see people through a different lens.  And they feel compelled to report back to me.   For example, my ATC wrote about a fund-raising event he’d attended the tonight before: 

 “There were about 30 people there. Of those 30 I knew about 10 by face. Now to the interesting part…my wife has had some different circulatory issues and has seen some of the prominent specialist Doctors here in town. They were there…(I’m not name dropping, just thinking about your book hits it on the mark).

But the great thing…at least for me…is that I feel like there’s a community around me that captures the spirit of Consequential Strangers:  people who are different from me, different from each other, who connect me to ideas and experiences I could never have myself.   And it’s also nice to know they’re rooting for the book!