I still don’t know what Sherry thinks about the border wall and I never found out whether Neil favors our current tax treatment for carried interest. I probably should have asked, but the conversation never went in that direction and then the opportunity slipped away.
So I went up to Hudson’s Bay a couple of months ago to take pictures of migrating polar bears and I ended up living with two dozen strangers from four or five countries. None of us could leave our makeshift hotel because polar bears get hungry while they’re waiting for seal-eating season and, fun fact, they run much faster than humans.
I’ve never been more isolated. We had no television, no internet, and almost no cell reception. You had to stand near the window next to the space heater and hold your phone high above your head to get any signal at all and it took six days to download an emoji. It was like being trapped on the Orient Express, but with less snow and fewer murderers. I think.
Anyway, we had nothing to do for three days but ride around the tundra, looking for photogenic polar bears and an occasional arctic fox. At night, we ate dinner at communal tables and spent hours in the “family room,” ‘til boredom overtook us and we began to speak.
And speak we did. We talked about favorite places, travel memories, photo tips and nature. We talked about hobbies and life stories and how we chose to join the tour. We talked about food and restaurants and plays and movies and families.
And in all the conversations over three days together, we didn’t debate politics or celebrities or conspiracies or crises. We didn’t choose sides or tribes or lines that we dared each other to cross. Maybe we were all afraid of getting voted off the island and thrown overboard as polar bear chum, or maybe we were just open to the idea of engaging with new people and enjoying shared experiences.
Remarkably, we figured out how to meet with strangers, engage in conversation, find common ground, and enjoy each other’s company. After three days together, we were all on speaking terms and nobody got fed to the bears. Well, nobody we’ll admit to, anyway.
Best of all, it felt totally organic. I don’t remember our guides issuing a warning about political conversations or any topics that were off limits for our time together. More likely, the hyper-partisan bombardments of our daily lives were generally out of reach and nobody thought them important enough to import into our refuge.
It was all very refreshing and an important reminder of what’s possible when we get together with strangers. Now, if only we could do the same thing with people we already know.
Now that I’ve written a blog post about the trip, it’s deductible as research, right? Follow my future engagements with the IRS by clicking here to subscribe.
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Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.