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UM: Unexpected Magic

UM: Unexpected Magic

I wasn’t planning on reversing the rotation of the planet. I really just wanted a croissant.

We can feed the anger in the world. We can fight the aggression. We can join in the mob mentality of revenge.

Or we can turn it around.

Can one tiny act on a regular Wednesday morning in the supermarket truly change the planet and alter the trajectory of the future of the human race?

At the cost of a simple decision and €4.99?

Let’s see how this pans out.

Yep, I have another talk coming up. As I work through it this week, it’s evolving. In a good way. No, a ridiculously fantastical magical way.

Take #1

The Conveyor Belt of Love

Take #2

Take #3

Take #4

Take #5

Morning Notes

Going over the “basics” or the “foundation” of what’s in this talk.

  1. Unexpected: I wasn’t planning on changing the world that morning.
  2. Mindset: a transformation from anger and revenge to kindness and love. What happened!?

I think I need to change how the “change” comes about. In the first few takes, I seem to make it appear that a “higher power” moved my hand to pick up the flowers.

But as I remember it, I made a decision to not go the angry route, not even the neutral route, but to go over the top the other way completely. To go crazy friendly, weirdly loving, and surprisingly…effective.

I could have exchanged barbs with her. I might have even escalated the dialogue to a point of no return. We might have come to blows–oh, and I would have lost that for sure.

But something happened. Something changed. I made a single and simple decision to not go down that route.

To surprise. To do the unexpected. To charm. To change the rules of the game.

I made a simple mistake. She didn’t have to get all mean and aggressive about it. What do I do in return?

Take #6

Take #7

Take #8

OK, here we go.

Quick thoughts:

  1. UM: Unexpected Magic. Unexplained Magic.
  2. Alone: Apparently, you’re not as alone as you think. (café)


  1. Her: she poked me in the shoulder and was angry, mean, and…who knows. It was an unexpected action. (I can even say, “Um. Unexpected.” as my response.)
  2. Me: How can I return the “unexpected” favor?
    1. I can do something equally (or even more) bad and shock her–although maybe this is what she expects?
    2. I could do nothing.
    3. I can do something even more unexpected: something magically loving.


In the café a few weeks prior, I went up to pay for my chai. The woman behind the counter said, “It’s been paid for.” I hadn’t paid yet, she must have me confused with someone else. “No, I haven’t paid yet.” “That woman paid for your chai,” and she pointed to a woman outside of the café walking away. “But she’s not with me. I’m alone.” The café woman looked at me and said, “Apparently, you’re not as alone as you think.”

Let’s Write This Out

I’m going to write this out to see, visually, here with words and paragraphs, what I need to keep and what I can get rid of. Maybe it will help me with timing, too.

Opening Scene

(Well, now that I’m here, what is it I want to open with? UM? Happy guy? No expectations? Need to work on this.)



No, that’s not me looking for words or stalling or nervous. That’s part of my speech. You see, by the end of my speech, I want you to have an entirely knew meaning for each time we stop, think, and say um.

(It seems that when you’re not expecting something to happen–it happens.)

I was minding my own business, happily listening to my audiobook in my earbuds while strolling through the Albert Heijn early in the morning. I got some black beans so I could make some chili. That sounded good.

As I approached the cashier, I realized that not only was there only one open, but in that line was a single woman with just one cart. However, I’m fairly certain that she was either in a contest to see how many tiny items she could fit into a single shopping cart, or she was part of a reality show, or she was doing the family shopping to get her 7 children through the entire winter. She had an overflowing carts of goods.

It was fine. It’s all good. I have time this morning. I’m not in a rush.

I was particularly paying attention to her further as I started to load my own items onto the conveyor belt. I noticed that as the conveyor belt rolled and my stuff moved towards the cashier, the woman still had at least 247 items left in her cart.

I tried in vain to hold my stuff back. I started building skyscrapers of cans of black beans. I was doing my best to accommodate her.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. Not a friendly tap like, “Would you like a cocktail this evening, sir?” but more of powerful finger.

I looked over to her. She was mad. She had a glare in her eye as if I had done her a great injustice. Which, apparently, I had.

“Dat is niet echt brilliant was je daar doet,” she scolded me. (That’s not terribly brilliant what you’re doing there.)

“Um,” I said aloud, not knowing quite how to respond. Her reaction was, to say the least, unexpected.

I had a decision to make–and it had to be fast.

I could:

  1. Fight back at her anger with some ruthless and vile words of my own. Many were coming to mind very rapidly.
  2. I could say nothing.
  3. I could do something even more unexpected.

I chose to say nothing mostly because I didn’t know how to respond to such anger and frustration. I fumbled my with my tortillas and cans of beans and again looked at her.

She was either going to hit me, knife me, or kill me with her eyes as she stared me down in only open line in the early morning silence of the Albert Heijn.

What happened next I can only describe as unexpected.

I reached over to my right and picked something up. It wasn’t my stuff, but an additional item. I put it in front of my relatively small collection of groceries.

As she was putting the last items of her truckload of products into her cart, the first item of mine was checked by the cashier so now paid for. I picked it up and quietly slid it into the back of her cart.

“Dit was je vergeten,” I said. (You forgot this.)

From her perspective, she might have expected that I had placed a bomb in her cart. But when she looked down to see what it was that she had forgotten, she realized she hadn’t forgotten that item at all. She had never purchased that item and within a matter of milliseconds, she figured out that I was giving it to her.

She lifted the bouquet of flowers out of her basket, raised it up to admire it, looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and, in a whisper of a voice said, “Dank je wel.” (Thank you.)

Now before you jump to conclusions and think that I’m such a nice guy, I can tell you, I’m nice, but I’m not that nice.

Sure, I thought about stealing an egg out of her carton so when she got home she would be frustrated and think, “Who would do such a thing?!”

You see, the “unexpected” part of this story was that it was unexpected to me. I didn’t plan it. I didn’t really think about what I was doing, I just sort of did it. Something, or someone, made me do it.


A few weeks prior I was in a café. When I went to the counter to pay for my chai, the woman said, “It’s been paid for.” I argued a little and said, “Um. That’s impossible, I’m alone.”

She looked at me and said, “Apparently, you’re not as alone as you think.”

Do you know how that made me feel? Someone saw me. Someone noticed me. Someone, a complete stranger I do not know to this day, went out of their way to do something unexpected.

The effects were nothing less than magical. I floated out of the café and felt, as cheesy as this sounds, I felt loved.

For a 4-Euro chai and I was lifted up to another level. It was unexpected. It was magic.

For a 4-Euro bouquet of flowers, I hope I had the same effect.

The next time something unexpectedly bad happens to you, I would like you to say, “Um,” out loud, to think of Unexpected Magic and surprise yourself.

If that woman in the café is in the audience tonight, don’t raise your hand, I just want to say, “Um, thank you.”

Take #9

Take #10

Take #11

Take #12

Take #13

Take #14

Take #15

Take #16

Take #17

Take #18

Take #19

Live from Utrecht, it’s … UM

Photo Gallery

Edward Val was kind enough to share a bunch of photos he took of the afternoon.

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