I was just at a conference in Nashville, kind of unexpectedly. Someone had a baby and then another someone got sick and then next thing you know I was on my way from Philly to a convention in Nashville.
Part of me didn’t want to go.
But I said YES because I know fate/karma just sometimes takes you places you need to go.
Anyway, on the plane, I sat next to Niki Sellers Hermes. I was planning to read a book on the flight but Niki was engaging from the get-go: fun, full of energy and a spitfire. I put my book away and for 3 hours we hashed out the world’s problems, agreeing, disagreeing, laughing. Guns, drugs, life, kids…. We hit all those topics.
That can be dangerous territory these days with a stranger but we found enough common ground and at the end of the trip Niki said, “I’m taking my Nashville friends out Saturday night and we’re going to the shrine of country music, home of the original Grand ‘Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. I might have extra tickets. You wanna come?”
“Maybe? Depends how this conference thing goes. Let me know.”
Friday night, I was on my own. A debate in my head. Hotel food or go out and get something local.
My no voice was saying” get hotel food. Turn on the tv and go to bed.”
My “I Dare Me” voice said, “Girl! You are in Nashville. You better walk the talk and go experience something new…Do the New already!”
“Hi, Mr. Concierge. Where can I get something really authentic to Nashville?”
“Hattie B’s Hot Chicken! You might stand in line but it is so worth it.”
I called my husband… ” I’m going to go get hot chicken.”
“YES! All by myself.”
“I just worry about you.”
“I’ll be fine. I have a fully charged phone and it’s daylight.”
Next thing I know I’m standing in a line wrapped around Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. I meet some wonderful folks from Chicago standing in line behind me.
“You think it’s worth it?” I ask.
“Sure hope so.”
Before you know it, I know all about them, their lives, their work, their grandchildren, where they’ve been on vacation and a big discussion about whether to get Hot, Damn Hot, or Ultimate Burn the Roof Off Your Mouth hot chicken.
They were fun. Much better than sitting in my room. It was worth it. I got indigestion. Still worth it.
Next day, I’m wrapping up another long day inside from 8-5 at this conference when I get a text from Niki. “I’ve got extra tickets. Meet us at the Acme restaurant.”
I hesitated. I was beat. It was St. Paddy’s day on a Saturday night. Downtown Nashville would be off the hook crazy with tourists and lots of people doing lots of drinking. I tend to shy away from that.
But it was Niki, my plane buddy. “Okay. I’ll be there.”
She seemed surprised I said yes.
I was just as surprised she followed up and invited me.
I fought my way through a sidewalk of college students waiting to get in. I went to the front door and just said, “I’m with Niki.”That was it. Magic words.
I was escorted to the second floor and found Niki at a table surrounded by 12 personal and work girlfriends and a dude named Joe who came in place of his wife Jennifer who couldn’t make it. (You can’t make this up.)
Niki was wearing a big green Texas style hat with a blinking green light and a gold shamrock on it. She put one just like it on my head and said to the group…”This is Lu Ann. My friend from the plane.”
The women all nodded and laughed knowingly. They all had a story about how they came into Niki’s life. “She’s a connector.”
Within minutes I was welcomed like they knew me all my life.
Long story short, we ate. We held hands like kindergarten kids through the throngs of partyers to get to the theater. I heard music I’ve never heard before…Valerie June and the Wood Brothers.
“Do you like it? Niki asked.
“I think so. I don’t know. It’s a first.”
Niki laughed, knowing she was introducing me to something for the first time, foreign to my ears.
The crowd went wild.
I bowed out at 10 pm. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Niki texted me the next morning. They got back to their hotel at 4 am.
Whew! I can’t keep up with that.
So, that’s my Nashville story. I did Nashville. At every turn, when I could, I said yes. And the world opened up as it so often does to new people and experience and memories.
I’m pretty certain I’ll see Niki again. We all need a Niki or two in our lives to keep things a little interesting, a little off balance, a little unpredictable. That’s a good Do the New partner.
And we all need to say YES when there are plenty of new first adventurers right outside our door. Just “Do the New!”