This week I have the fortunate experience of spending my time in New York City with the University of Oregon advertising program for Creative Week. I figured most of my networking would come from various agency tours, presentations, and Q&A sessions. I never expected what happened to me tonight.
A few of us decided to mix business with pleasure, and go to a Yankees baseball game. As we approached the stadium, a crowd aggressively gathered in a circle. It was a hectic clump of chaos while people desperately clawed for their free giveaway.
Lawn gnomes. Of all things, they were giving away free Yankee lawn gnomes. If I had any shred of logic in my brain, I would have thought to myself, “What will I ever do with this? I don’t even have a garden…Or any miniscule area of grass for that matter”.
But of course, I have no reasoning skills whatsoever, and my inner hoarder won. I yearned to own one because everyone else was getting them. Humans are so weird.
The game ended, and the Yankees lost. I couldn’t be sad though, I got a free gnome!
After leaving our seats, I happily carried my new, worthless lawn gnome to the subway. While we took our spot, a lady next to us offered us some cookies because she was in a suite and she (like me) was a hoarder, and took an excessive amount. I declined because I’ve seen too many late night television shows and assumed it was laced with methamphetamines. However, my friend Megan accepted. Once I saw that she wasn’t foaming at the mouth, I obliged (I know, I’m such a good friend…)
I thought the story ended there, until the woman asked me about my lawn gnome. She arrived to the game late and didn’t know that they had a giveaway. Since my hoarding side was fulfilled, the frontal lobes finally kicked in. I offered my gnome to her because realistically, I had no room for it in my suitcase (and no yard for my gnome to thrive in).
At first she wouldn’t accept because she felt cookies weren’t a valid exchange for a lawn gnome. I reassured her that TSA would probably confiscate it, and it deserved a happy life of freedom in her garden abyss. We talked about my trip for Creative Week, and low and behold it turns out she works at ABC in advertising! She was so pleased with my gesture of giving her a lawn gnome that she gave me her business card. We parted ways as she yelled out the subway door, “I’ll never forget you, garden gnome girl!”
Networking can happen in the most unexpected of places. It’s crazy to think about all of the strangers in public places that you never talk to, and the stories that can surface from simple gestures. There are so many opportunities that are lost if you don’t take chances. It’s up to you to break the ice, and take the cookie (well, as long as it’s not tampered with).
In the end, I’d say that a lawn gnome is a fair trade for a cookie, a business card, and a subway ride I’ll never forget.