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Thoughts on Conversations with Celebrities

  • by Zeynep Barakat, DMD, FAGD
  • Apr 2, 2018, 08:00 AM

Last week, I went to tennis heaven. The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, is one of the most exciting tennis tournaments of the year. Almost every tennis player on the professional tour, low and high ranked alike, signs up. Top tennis players are no different than other famous celebrity athletes, except, at this tournament, you may be lucky enough to bump into them and actually talk sans security guards. 

Aside from watching endless hours of beautiful live tennis, I noticed that many of the players, coaches and entourages happened to be in my hotel. While it was modest lodging, it was lit up by all the stars of the courts walking around with their large tennis bags or coffees in hand, waiting for their rides. Better yet, I also got to see the former top players standing a few feet away, giving me the occasional nod or greeting. I was ecstatic, and, though I appeared calm and collected, it was hard to resist the temptation to run over and ask for a photo. Instead of interrupting, I decided to be casual and simply returned the nods and smiles as if we had been friends for years. Though I have no pictures, tweets or Facebook posts to prove it, I ran into so many tennis stars and famous coaches that, by the end of our stay, it was starting to become normal to see them at arm’s reach.

The highlight of the event came when I realized I was alone in an elevator with a famous female tennis superstar of the 70s and 80s. She had always been one of my idols, and I revered her tennis style and character. As she asked me which floor I was on, I mumbled a number and then felt my heart race as I frantically tried to think of something to say. What came out eventually was a meek, “I feel like today’s my lucky day.” As soon as I heard the words leave my mouth, I instantly regretted them. She was graceful enough to return with an “Aww,” and broke the ice by asking me about my sports bag. We had a wonderful exchange about it. And that was it. There was no talk of tennis, and I enjoyed hearing what her favorite sports store was. I kicked myself for not thinking of something more original or even simply asking her about her day.

We have celebrities of our own in the dental field, and we revere them for what they do for our patients and our careers. There are many amazing clinicians, lab technicians and other dental professionals who we mortals would love to meet personally. But what would we say if we had only a few minutes with them alone? Would we become starstruck? If you were in the elevator with Dr. John Kois or Dr. Frank Spear, would you ask about what ceramic material they prefer for their crowns or mention a case you were working on? Or would you ask them a non-dental question? My thinking is that they are ordinary people, and you would have better conversations if you asked about everyday interests, not their specialties. I know now that the next time I’m in an elevator with a dental or tennis celebrity, I will revert to casual topics. If I can’t think of anything, then a simple “How is your day going?” should do the trick. Who knows — maybe they’ll tell me what their favorite ceramic material is.

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