People: Sarah

She was alone at the bar … a glass of water, a giant pile of French fries and a separate bowl of potato chips sat in front of her. The seats on either side of her were empty at an otherwise full bar.

“No” she said. “Nobody is sitting there”

I took a seat, introduced myself and she said her name was Sarah. I ordered a beverage.

Someone to my right was talking about a seminar being held that night on the topic of renewable energy.

Interesting. I wouldn’t really have expected that topic to be high on the list in this establishment. I surfed the conversation. Not my gig really. It sounded as if it was going to be more like a sales pitch than educational.

That didn’t put Sarah off who had heard the answer and asked if anyone could attend. Turns out it was invitation only, but the other person ambled off to see if there were any ‘spare’ invitations.

I asked Sarah if she was interested in renewable energy. Not specifically she said, but it’s always good to learn.

Our investigator returned but there were no spare invitations. She then spent time explaining to Sarah how she could get invited to the next seminar.

Conversation with Sarah was sporadic, and I eventually stood up, excused myself and went out for some air.

I returned 10 minutes later, the Barman had packaged up Sarah’s chips and fries to go and she had left.

I never learned her story, but the barman filled me in on what he knew. The previous manager had banned her but she had discovered that there was a new one and started coming again. The ‘carb loaded diet’ was what she could afford, the water was free. The spaces either side of her at the bar helped the other patrons breathe more easily … hygiene was not her highest priority. She lived ‘nowhere’.

And yet she understood the world well enough to have a meaningful conversation with the lady running the renewable energy seminar … though my guess is that what she was really wanting was some proper food.

People: John and Mary

They were from Massachusetts. This was the start of their fourth month on the road – thousands of miles away from their home.

Mary was stood watching John who was lying on his back under the car.

I remarked that if I actually knew anything about how to fix engines, I would offer to help diagnose the problem. But I didn’t, so it was pointless. Was there anything else I could do to help?

Mary smiled, “no thank-you” she said and went on to remark that they had just spent $500 giving the truck a service because they felt it needed it. Not because anything was wrong. They got the truck back yesterday. This was the first problem of the trip.

“I am sure it is just a coincidence,” said Mary.

I know I would not be so magnanimous.

“It’s ok”, she said, “we have Triple A. They will come and fix it. And while we are waiting, who could want a more beautiful place to wait.”

I looked around. No argument.

The smiles on their faces. The positivity. The gentleness, The patience.

They were just fine.

People: Gina

Gina told me that her husband was a magician. A very good magician.

Turns out that he is also a maths teacher. That’s how he makes is money. He really wants to make his living as a magician. Magic is is his passion.

Her husband thinks that maths could be made more interesting to students by using magic. Essentially going to schools and revealing the maths through performance and magic.

Not exactly sure how that would work, but it is a wonderful example of mixing passion with income. Ikigai is a simple guide to how well we are all doing on that score by the way.

I asked her if he had approached any of the schools in the area to let him come in and try out the idea.

No. No he hadn’t. He didn’t think that they would ‘go for it’.

“If you don’t ask – how do you know?” I asked.

She looked at me silently and after a long pause said that she would tell him to start asking.

People: Dan

Dan knew what he was doing. He offered me an Amber Ale from his selection. It was glorious. Arguably one of the best Amber’s I had ever tasted.

The rest of the beer selection looked equally impressive (Looked – because I didn’t taste them all).

I didn’t quite get why Coors was on the list. It hardly fitted into the craft beer category that described everything else.

“Oh”, he said, “I did a deal with them, they agreed to install my entire beer system for free if I agreed to sell Coors. They did, So I do.”

“And we are a business. A lot of people drink Coors and those profits support what I really enjoy doing.

He’s a wise man that Dan. Maybe that is why he is moving to The United Arab Emirates. Or maybe he’s doing that regardless?

People: Candy

I met Candy while she was having dinner with her beau … Brian. She is a truck driver who operates as far North as Seattle and as far South as San Jose.

Her grandfather had a business maintaining and fixing trucks. In that part of the country, back in those days, I am guessing his shop was THE place to go. Her father didn’t share the love of trucks. He tinkered. He knew his stuff … but he didn’t feel it.

On the side, he fixed bikes. He was good at it. Very good. It was a passion. Everybody said to him that he should go into the bike business. He did. He loved it. It worked. He never looked back.

That is probably why Candy found herself riding a motorbike at the age of 5. On her first ride, she fell off. She wasn’t hurt and with help from her dad – got right back on.

She hasn’t fallen off since, let alone crashed.

It was through her bike that she met Brian. He was a pro motocross rider. Together they still ride … on and off the roads.

A woman living a life she loves. Blending a legacy of trucks and a love of motorbikes.

People:​ Caroline and Marcus

Caroline and Marcus had arrived in the US a couple of days earlier, most of their two-week sojourn in front of them.

They described their route over the next 10 days. There was going to be a lot of driving. A lot.

I knew where they lived in the UK. Each day they were going to drive a distance equivalent to what they did in a month at home.

Each day they were going to see a unique piece of nature the likes of which they would not see at home.

I knew that somewhere near their home their were tourists from the other side of the world seeing everything that they had in their backyard.

People: Stevie

Stevie was unsteady on his feet. He walked slowly. He didn’t seem to have much money. He was visiting the area because he had a hospital appointment.

It wasn’t clear why he needed a hospital. I didn’t ask. His elbow was gashed. But was that the reason? No idea – and not what you explore when you first meet.

His father owned a hardware store back in the day. With his uncle they bought a second store in the next town over.

You know that the hardware businesses did well when you got Bill Champlin to come over to your house and give your son (that would be Stevie) music lessons. Bill was good – even then. Stevie apparently wasn’t.

It is clear that Stevie was a handful throughout his teens. It seemed that he remained that way most of his life.

According to Stevie – he was never much good at anything – but he was alright. He “didn’t need much”.

Listening to Stevie, it seemed that he recognized that he had a lot of opportunities, but didn’t make the most them. It wasn’t clear that he regretted anything.

Except he was lonely. I think he is facing his mortality and wondering why he is alone.

People: Jeff and Emma

Jeff had worked in Somerset for 4 years. Emma’s mother was born in England. Now they lived in America. Together.

We found ourselves talking over a couple of brews about the benefits of America over the UK. That with the current uncertainty of America, where would we rather be? More importantly, what would we do if the US continued this way after November of this year.

We agreed that the UK probably wasn’t the solution.

A ‘People First’ Update

People First has a big vision and is moving forward on a variety of initiatives. Life is too short to record it all in detail here … so I am choosing to reference a few (in alphabetical order);

  • (The) Business Of Identity
  • CH-MRC
  • Digital Puerto Rico
  • IndieWeb
  • Internet Identity Workshop
  • Lost Identity

Some are large far-reaching initiatives some are small ideas. Some I am just interested in, others I am helping get established. I believe all are designed to help ‘move the can down the road’ in different ways. (The can being that which we each need to move forward to create a better world where people and their humanity are not afterthoughts but at the center of thinking, decisions and action.

And that human-centered perspective got me to thinking about people – and their stories.

So, in parallel with these initiatives, we are also pivoting the site, including moving the blog front and center and dropping the ‘WhoWhatWhenWhereWhyHow’ pages to a supporting role on the site.


We are also announcing the introduction of a new theme of posts categorized as ‘Travels Without Charley’ – tipping cap, doffing hat, nodding head vigorously towards one John Steinbeck. Continue reading

Exploitation of People By People

Vehicle Costs May Put Some Uber and Lyft Drivers in the Red

”The ride-sharing drivers earn just $3.37 per hour on average, according to an MIT study.

I have said for a long time that the same people who object to treatment of workers in remote countries making phones, garments et al … are generally the self same people who love the convenience of ‘their’ Uber.

Case In Point … disasters.

We seem to worry more about issues that are close to home far more than remote ones … 2 dead in storm floods in the next state over is so much more worrying than 200 dead in Pakistan floods … yet exploitation of those people in Pakistan by the garment industry hits the news cycle regularly … exploitation of our own countrymen in the so called ‘sharing economy’ … that we don’t hear about too much at all.