As a trainer, you get used to filling time waiting for computers with silly things; jokes, observations, and other time-fillers. Many are rhetorical. Most generate no responses. But every now and then he would have a really clever comeback to something. He was always thinking about things around him. He obviously had more brain bandwidth than most of us.
I don't remember the details, but one of his responses to a trivial aside was really deep and philosophical. I paused to comment that I'd never heard such a profound insight on such a throwaway line and he offered to let us know about the four most important questions of existence:
1. How did stuff arise from nothing?
2. How did life arise from stuff?
3. How did consciousness arise from life?
4. What do women want, anyway?
Now he’s clearly one of the smartest and funniest people I'd ever met.
We enjoyed each other’s company and he invited me to join him, his wife, and another friend for dinner. We had a wonderful meal and conversation, including meeting the chef, also a good friend of theirs. I was touched and grateful to have been treated as a friend by a customer I'd met only a day before. I made a mental note to send a thank you note when I got home.
Once home, life got hectic with the usual things. About six weeks later, I was cleaning out my briefcase and found Joe’s business card. It reminded me to send the thank you note and I called the office number to ask for his home address. I wanted to send it to his home as a personal note, not a business one. When I asked the receptionist, there was a pause as she informed me that he was no longer there. He had passed away two weeks earlier.
The week that I was there he was in terminal stages of cancer and said nothing. Yet he shared some of the precious time he had with me. And I learned never to wait when you want to send a thank-you note.