Two years ago when I was in Japan on a tea buying trip, I had a series of meetings with several different tea companies to assess their respective teas for a possible purchase. Most of the meetings went well, with translators present to help both sides talk about details of purchasing the tea. I met some interesting men and women that day and tasted both good and lackluster tea.
Every meeting was set up to last 20 minutes and they followed the same course. Introductions via a translator, a presentation by the tea folks, questions by me, and then a taste of one or two teas that they had brought with them for me to consider.
One particular gentleman and his nephew really did not have any tea that I was interested in. This became clear after about 4 minutes into the scheduled 20 minute meeting. As we all just sat there looking across the table at one another without much to say, the Uncle finally looked at me and said in halting English…..”Tom Brady”.
He followed that with two thumbs up and a big smile. I realized that he understood that I was from Massachusetts, so I responded with “Red Sox”. That got an even more enthusiastic thumbs up and a big, big smile from his nephew. We went back and forth like this with the “Celtics” and the “Bruins” until we ran out of this “conversation.”
The Uncle was beginning over again with another “Tom Brady” thumbs up, so I had an idea how to pad out the remaining time. I grabbed the lap top that I had brought with me, and I put the name Gisele Bundchen (Tom Brady’s wife) into the search. I knew that she was beautiful and exotic-looking and might just be the ice-breaker that we desperately needed to add another dimension to this conversation.
It only took me a few seconds to find a photo of her, fully-clad and simply gorgeous. I spun my lap top around and watched the looks on their faces when I pointed to the image on the screen and said “Tom Brady’s wife”. Or I should say that my translator said that for me. She asked me what his wife did and I explained that she was a fashion model. I’m not sure what she told the men, but at first there was not much reaction. Both men seemed stunned.
I feared that I had offended them in some way that I could not possibly imagine. But just a few seconds later they both began to grin with delight and got very chatty with one other and the translator. After a few Japanese OOHS and AAHS I realized that they were both writing down the URL on the screen and her name. They both seemed quite approving and I believe that Tom Brady got another couple of ”thumbs up.”
The meeting was just about over and we parted ways with a lightness of spirit that was missing from the earlier part of the meeting. Later that evening, at a cocktail party for all of the tea sellers and buyers, I noted the Uncle cruising towards me with a big smile on his face. He sauntered past me flashing two thumbs up and gave me a knowing “Tom Brady.”
It felt like we were friends for life now – bonded by a shared knowledge that would be difficult to put into words. He seemed more animated than he was earlier in the day, and tea was no longer on the table as a point of discussion. As I turned to watch him walk away I imagined he was thinking about something other than “Tom Brady.”