An Unplanned Savannah Encounter

So I check into the Westin, and I’m in my room looking out the window at what I think is the Savannah River. But wait a second, it ends. The river, that is, actually stops. No, not by flowing into something bigger, which is what I’d expect from any landmark whose last name is “River.” Instead, it just sits there looking like a river-shaped lake. A river-lake. Huh? And honestly, it’s not all that impressive. I could easily swim across it, if it weren’t for the gators. And I just know they’re there, because it looks exactly like the kind of place I would live if I were an alligator.

And here’s the thing. I’ve heard there’s plenty to do “on the other side.” But the other side looks like… um… well… weeds!

Bummed out by the river-lake, but still inspired by the beautiful day outside, I head downstairs in search of an exit. As an experienced traveler, I realize that most hotels are equipped with a way to get out. Except for maybe the one in the Eagles song where “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” But I’m in Georgia, not California, so there’s gotta be a way to leave, if only for a few hours.

Now I lurk the lobby, silently assessing which door will get me to this “river” the fastest. And I’m not even sure why I feel driven to go there and get to the other side. Remember, it’s just weeds! Okay, and maybe some cattails. But for whatever reason, the Eagles are now joined by the Talking Heads in my brain. “Take me to the river…”

That’s when I hear someone say “Hi Bill!” I look over and see Heather Oppenheimer checking in at the front desk. I’ve met her once before, at last year’s SEPG Conference in San Jose. We chat for a minute, and she eventually agrees to accompany me across the river. Cool! Because if I’m going to be walking through a swamp, I’d at least like somebody to chat with. And maybe to help pull the leeches off afterwards. If we survive the crocs.

Stepping outside, the day is indeed glorious. Sun bathers abound, and I realize that my all-black outfit doesn’t quite… blend. But there it is in front of me — the Savannah River! Big and bold, with what appears to be lots of civilization on the other side! Where are the weeds?

Heather politely informs me that what I saw from my window was simply a wetland, not the actual river.


So we take a ferry across and it’s obvious I’m with the right person. Heather has much more of a “plan” than me, which I appreciate. Truthfully, I never had much of a plan other than to cross that river. We browse some nifty little shops, I buy a little wire sculpture of an Alien/Predator dude, purchase two huge dog biscuits imprinted with “SAVANNAH,” and we finally end up eating at a place called Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub. And we talked and talked and talked. About the CMMI for Services and Miami Beach, about SEI training and aging parents. The conversation flowed, just like the river. (I guess wetlands flow too, just not so fast.) I discovered much more about a person who had previously just been a very casual acquaintance. We even found out enough about each other and our businesses that it wouldn’t be ridiculous to think of working together on something in the future. (At least, that’s my perspective; I can’t necessarily speak for her!)

When I got back to my room later that evening, I realized this is a key part of what SEPG is all about. Sure, there are plenty of planned activities. There are presenters to hear and booths to visit and, heck, even a Gala to attend. But the unplanned can sometimes be even better. Who knew?

I look forward to the rest of the week at the Conference. And I have a hunch I’ll be crossing that river a few more times, too!

Bill Smith
CEO, Leading Edge Process Consultants


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