I was once flying from Salt Lake to Dallas in a Delta L1011: six seats in first class, in three rows of two. It was full. I was sitting in the last row in first class when I noticed this heavy guy in a suit come lumbering down the aisle in my direction. Please go on to coach, I said to myself—but sure enough, he parked next to me and sat down.
I didn’t feel like talking with anybody, so I gave him my closed vibe for most of the flight and he seemed fine with that. We didn’t exchange a word for more than two hours. About thirty minutes outside of Dallas, he asked for a second Diet Coke. When the flight attendant brought it, she stumbled and spilled it all over his suit. He was very gracious, but she was mortified. After toweling him off, she brought him a bottle of wine, courtesy of Delta, and told him the airline would cover his dry-cleaning. He thanked her, told her he didn’t drink wine, and they struck up a conversation.
My ears perked up when I heard her call him Mr. Hunt and tell him how she’d drive by his ranch in Westlake on the way home from the airport. That’s when I realized I’d been sitting next to Bunker Hunt for two hours, who along with his brother were two of the richest men in the world. At the time, I was a stockbroker in my twenties who had no business shunning anybody; I’d been sitting next to the richest man in the world for two hours, busy shooting him “don’t talk to me” vibes the entire trip.
I made a commitment, then and there, never to prejudge another person, ever.