Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…

Imagine you’re in a gigantic room, a room so spacious it can comfortably hold more than a billion people. In fact, that’s how many people are there with you right now. Despite its size, the room is ingeniously designed so everyone is in close proximity to everyone else. Thus any person in the room can easily walk over to any other person and tap him or her on the shoulder.

As you move around the room each day, this is exactly what happens. Wherever you go, people come up to you and tap you on the shoulder. Some tap gently, some firmly, but they all want the same thing: a little of your time and attention. Some ask you questions and wait for answers. Others request favors. There are people who are eager to sell you things and other people who want to buy things of yours.

Some share personal news and photos from their recent travels. Others want only to talk business. Occasionally someone taps to say they miss you– which is a little odd, since they’re right there in the room with you– and they give you big hugs and kisses. Certain friends tap often to keep you abreast of everything they’re thinking and doing, no matter how trivial. ‘I’m now eating a cheeseburger,’ one will say and hold it up for you to see.

Encounters often overlap. As you’re dealing with one person, another comes along and taps, and you have to choose between them. You do pretty well managing all these overtures, while also making your own. It’s kind of thrilling to be in the room. There’s always something going on, and you’re learning a lot. And some of these people– maybe twenty or thirty out of the billion– really matter to you.

You make a point of tapping them as often as possible, and when they tap you back, it really feels nice. – William Powers