I told you how shy I used to be, and I am happy that I have overcome the severe shyness of my childhood. I explained in The Shy Bug, which is when I chose to be the bird who quietly sat in the corner instead of my hero, the bunny, in my kindergarten play. It took years and was a slow evolution. Dad knew that version of me, which still exists, but to a much smaller degree now.
When I travel alone, I enjoy striking up a conversation with my fell passengers when I get an inkling that they are more interested in speaking to me than reading their book or listening to the music on their device.
Last year I was sitting in the middle seat between Dad and an older gentleman. Neither the stranger nor I spoke to each other during the early part of the flight between Dallas and Palm Springs. Sometime after the flight attendant delivered our beverages, the man began to make small talk with me.
Although originally from Great Britain, he told me he was an artist who had lived in Africa, where he specialized in painting the people and animals of that great continent. He explained that his father discouraged his passion for art during his youth, but he persevered until he became a success.
Over a shared glass of water (I drank from his glass by accident), he told me about his most famous work, which was a life-sized portrait of Queen Elizabeth, which he painted in 1992. He mentioned parking his car inside the gates of Buckingham Palace, where he was approached by a man who told him to move his vehicle before the changing of the guard.
He took out the airline magazine so he could show me where he now lived, which was on the island of Malta, just off the southern tip of Italy. I told him about my book, and he encouraged me to continue. As we prepared to leave, he handed me his business card.
I admit I had doubts about his incredible story, so I checked him out when I arrived at my final destination. He was who he said he was —an artist named Don Heywood– and is included on my list of “wow people I have met.”