I was lucky enough to attend my first An Event Apart conference last week in Austin, Texas. I always enjoy the smaller web conferences better than the craziness that is SXSW, and An Event Apart was no exception. The twelve speakers were phenomenal, and I can say that I learned something new and took away something important from each presentation. A huge thank you goes out to Jeffrey Zeldman, Eric Meyer, and the rest of the An Event Apart team for organizing and putting on a great three day event.
After the conference, I arrived back in El Paso inspired and motivated from everything that I learned. But I also gained extra inspiration and motivation from an unexpected source right after the conference wrapped up.
Luke Wroblewski’s exceptional “Designing for Mobile and Beyond” session ended at 4:00, so Octavio (my good friend / fellow web designer) and I went to the hotel lobby to catch a cab to the airport. We shared a cab with three other An Event Apart attendees. If you’ve ever been to Austin, you know that rush hour traffic is an absolute nightmare, so I was prepared for a long, slow cab ride.
After the cab driver loaded up his van with our luggage and we were in our seats, he gave us a proposition. He said that if we were able to guess what country in Africa he was from, he would take us to the airport for free. But if we guessed wrong, he would double our fare. I’m not sure if he could even legally do that, but our group politely declined the offer. He gave us a hint about where he was from (something about an Eddie Murphy movie), and someone in our group correctly guessed that he was from Cameroon. We could have had a free ride to the airport!
As we were slowly making our way to the airport in stop-and-go traffic, our cab driver then asked if we wanted to play a game. He said there were 52 countries in Africa, and if we could name at least 46 of them, we could add our names to his cab’s “roof of fame.” Anyone who had accomplished this feat wrote their name in permanent marker on the roof of the cab. Our group showed our lack of African geography knowledge by naming only about 20 countries, but our cab driver gave us hints about the other countries and we had fun trying to decipher his clues.
He then moved on to asking us about United States and Texas trivia. We learned that William Taft is the only US President to later serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and that four states in the US have the same first letter as their capital city (Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, and Oklahoma.) After learning a few more interesting trivia facts, we arrived at the airport and our cab ride had ended. Our fare was $33, and our group pooled together $50 to give to the driver. He earned every penny of his $17 tip.
Being a cab driver is not the best job in the world. You sit around in a car for at least eight hours a day and drive complete strangers around to random locations throughout a city, usually in bad traffic. It has to get extremely monotonous, boring, and frustrating. However, it seemed like our cab driver decided at some point a long time ago that if he was going to be a cab driver, he was going to be the best damn cab driver he could be. He was friendly, outgoing, entertaining, and made a forty minute cab ride in rush hour traffic go by in the blink of an eye. The experience was inspiring and eye-opening.
Being a web designer and business owner has its up and downs. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the fast-paced nature of the web design industry, and dealing with clients can be both rewarding and challenging. It’s also very easy to let your business run you instead of you running your business, which can be a killer of motivation and productivity.
Before An Event Apart, I was feeling a bit unfocused and unmotivated, but the conference and the cab driver gave me the spark I needed to get excited about web design again. The twelve wonderful speakers at An Event Apart motivated me to become a better web designer and business owner, but the cab driver motivated me to be the best damn web designer and business owner I could be.