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A-Ha Moments

Instant Social Capital

Written by: Bill Sherman on Tuesday, 22 July 2008, 11:24 AM

Sometimes, you can create instant social capital to ease your way through a situation.

Yesterday, I stood in the TSA security line at San Jose. I fly a whole lot, so I’m personally familiar with the drill. This time, I stood back and people-watched how infrequent travelers dealt with the process of TSA screening.

The woman ahead of me was heading on vacation to visit her elderly parents in St. Petersburg, Florida. (she told me while we were in line together). She was probably in her 40s, and she had an a warm, infectious smile. She turned to me and asked, “Do you travel much?” I smiled back and said, “Yes, I usually travel a couple times per month.”

“Well, this is the first time that I’ve flown in years, what do I need to know?” I asked her about liquids in the carryon and located a free resealable bag for her to put her small items in. For the next few minutes, I became her guide through the security process. She flashed a winning smile to the TSA officers, and she politely thanked them at every step. As a result, she sailed through security like a pro.

This rookie traveler generated “pocket change” social capital to smooth her way through what could have been a confusing and stressful experience.

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