When I was a relatively junior consultant in a PR agency, I was responsible for running a specific meeting with a very volatile client and it soon became clear that his view of the purpose of the meeting was not at all the same as the one I had planned for. Within 30 minutes of it starting he stormed out of the room, shouting to my boss at the other at the office that this was the worst meeting he had ever been in. I spent the whole afternoon crying in the toilets. Eventually I made it out, crept to my desk to get my bag and left.
We were travelling down to Suffolk that evening with my boyfriend and his brother and girlfriend. I cried the whole way. In my head I created a million scenarios in which I got my own back on this client, completely ignoring the view on the way down and the chance to catch up with our family.
I didnt notice the house and its surroundings. I could think of nothing else except how humiliated I had been.
When we were at dinner the brother and his girlfriend announced they had got engaged. My head was so full of this client and the ‘WORST MEETING’ that I could barely notice their happiness.
I’d brought that client on the weekend with me. I had sat him in the car and asked him to repeat over and over and over again what he had told my boss. My reality for the entire weekend was that meeting.
On Monday he called to apologise, said he had been under a lot of stress. My boss apologised to me for putting me in that situation. My colleagues took me out for lunch. We swapped stories of our worst working moments. Instantly the whole event lost its emotional charge and its grip on my mind.
I went back to Suffolk several years later, with the boyfriend who had become my husband, when my brother and sister in law had been married for ten years and had two children. We saw the house again and I realized how breathtakingly beautiful it was, set right on the edge of a cliff, looking out onto the expanse of sea. The house so simple and white was a gleaming jewel against the vast sky. The joy of an engagement between two people deeply in love and the excitement of making future plans. I had missed all of this that weekend simply because I didn’t tell an angry client to get out of the car.
Who is in the car with you?