We scarfed down lasagna and raced to the art museum Thursday night, running a few minutes late for the evening program we were to attend. Ann and I were going to hear a lecture on design and happiness. We had no idea what to expect.

We took longer than usual finding a parking spot at the museum because there were cars everywhere. As we raced to the will-call desk, we noticed lots and lots of people milling around, picking up tickets, sipping wine. When we saw people carrying around books by the speaker, we speculated about the fame of the man whom neither one of us had heard of before.

Finally, it was our turn to be helped. “I’m here to pick up tickets for the Stefan Sagmeister lecture,” I said.

“Did you hear about the delay?” the young man behind the counter asked.

“The delay?”

“Yes, Mr. Sagmeister’s plane was delayed in D.C. The program will be starting sometime around 9.”

“Nine tonight?” I asked. It was currently 7:05 p.m.

“Yes, 9 p.m.” he confirmed. Ann and I deliberated. She had family at home expecting her back around 9. I had to be at work at 7 a.m. the next morning.

“Can we get a refund if we decide not to stay?” I asked.

“Yes, in this situation I suppose. But Mr. Sagmeister was delayed in D.C. He will be here as soon as possible,” he repeated. The airline industry had caused him one very long evening.

After thinking about it for 10 minutes or so, Ann and I decided to stay. We have been known to talk on the phone for two hours. Two hours at a museum would be no problem for us.


We toured the European gallery – my favorite. Ann told me about the time she saw a little boy touch an original Picasso and felt both horror and envy at the same time. I revealed my weak grasp of art history as I confused Gauguin and Cezanne throughout the evening. We talked about the moral dilemma of nude paintings and laughed when my favorite Gauguin print ended up being the one with the partially naked woman.

Eventually we sat outside enjoying the beautiful June evening, and when a cab pulled up, we thought it might be the speaker. Ann was poised with her camera; I was trying to remember his name. It turned out to be an empty cab picking up the guys sitting just down the way from us. They apparently could not wait two hours for a speaker delayed in D.C.

When the lecture finally started around 9:30 p.m., the audience cheered, the speaker entertained, a few audience members asked ego-centric questions. It was all just as we could have expected.

Only somehow, it was better than we expected. It wasn’t just that we learned more about Stefan Sagmeister, a world famous designer. Or that we got a sneak preview of 12 minutes of the film he is working on about happiness. And though we chuckled when we realized how many men had on skinny jeans – including the speaker – that added minimally to the success of our evening.

The real joy was that Ann and I did something unexpected, and we did it together. And according to Sagmeister, “Doing something you don’t normally do has a very high potential to affect your well-being.”

We snuck out around 10:40 before the program was even over.

We left happy.


You might be interested in seeing the TED Stefan Sagmeister lecture on design and happiness.

Photo by Xanetia via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.