Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Scottish-American success story

On yesterday's flight back from Kauai, the lady sitting next to me was petrified of flying. She was 74, had been born in Scotland and had then immigrated to the US 51 years ago and was living south of San Francisco.

I learned all this before the flight had even taken off from Lihue, and it dawned on me that she was chatting away as one way to alleviate her fear of flying. I later saw that her other way was to order a $6-gin-and-tonic to calm her nerves.
“I have been through so much in life, and flying still gets me,” she said, shaking her head. She said that she had been through childbirth (thrice) and had been held at gun point at her own home (once, for 45 minutes) but flying was what really terrified her.
“But in a way, I see this fear as a good thing,” she said, putting a positive spin by psychoanalyzing herself. “I am 74 and I am still afraid. That means that I have more to live for, so much more I still have to do.”

After we were airborne, she said she was very proud of what her youngest daughter had accomplished. This daughter had started to slowly turn deaf in her early teen years. And then, for a couple of decades the deafness was practically total. Undaunted, the daughter had gotten degrees and even started her own company with a couple of other people. And then, thanks to the miracle of modern technological advances, at the age of 39, her deafness was cured.
“It doesn’t work for everybody, but my daughter is a poster-child for cochlear implants!”
This daughter had sold her company to a bigger firm for “many, many millions.” The timing had been perfect. Two weeks later, we were all hit with this recent economic crisis. She felt that there was no way anyone would buy the company in the current economic situation.

She talked of growing up in Scotland with very little. She was dismissive of what everyone calls smog in the big cities nowadays. “You haven’t seen smog until you have seen what it was like in Lanarakshire in those days. It was because of all the coal burning.”
Because her parents had struggled financially, for the first 23 years of her life there hadn’t been an indoor toilet where she lived.
Clearly, in the US she and her husband had done very well. Her husband was sitting somewhere else in the airplane. I learned that she and her husband owned not one but two timeshare condos with a guaranteed view of the ocean in Poipu, a very upscale part of Kauai island.
“I actually think it helps to have had so little when growing up,” she said, because she felt that it helped her value and savor what she now had more.

“And now I have a home with five bathrooms. And you know what?” She paused for effect before continuing, “I absolutely love having all of them!”

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