"Even Don Draper's talent is not limitless." I found myself saying to the fellow who happened to be sitting next to me on my last flight.
I figured I'd regurgitate the content we both shared and post it here. It was a fun flight and one on which, the universe threw me a bone. There were no screaming babies on this one. It was a great flight to an even more awesome trip.
Let me start by saying that I don't enjoy small talk usually. Small talk takes time from things of more substance, I find. But the fellow sitting next to me was very polite and he kept looking at my screen as I was catching up on the latest season of Mad Men. I finally remove my headset, turn to him and ask, "did you want to watch this?"
The look on his face seemed to indicate that my words were perhaps a tad sarcastic. They weren't. My offer to co-watch was genuine. It's very easy to be kind to strangers after all. Here we were on a long flight and I don't like it when someone furtively looks at my stuff. I'm much more comfortable with confrontation. And so he says, "You don't mind?" I add, quickly, "No, not at all. Here. I have a splitter too. So, lets connect both of our headsets."
And so here I was. Watching the last episode of Mad Men with a perfect stranger. And the following is a summary of the chat we had afterwords. The flight was long and the episode is but 45 minutes.
As I now finally manage to carve some time and watch the new season, the very last season of this transformative show, I keep thinking of how it has evolved these past 9 years. And as I think about Don Draper and the cast of Mad Men, as well as the narrative therein, I cannot help but take stock of the past 9 years as well. Much has happened since then. In less than a decade I got a PhD, became Dr. Ribaj, taught, published, and lectured at a Big Ten university, then left and entered the world of business in which I learned just how valuable my background, education, and natural ability with numbers is. In less than a decade I learned what I'd inherently known since early childhood, that I can pretty much do anything. A lot of this has to do with nature and nurture, sure. But a good portion of it has to do with the kind of media that I choose to masticate and appropriate. "No person is an island," as the fellow sitting next to me on the last flight told me. And I concur. Plus, the media that we are drawn to either brings out what's already inherent in us or helps place us on track. But then, again, I digress. This is not a post about me or my last trip. It's about Don Draper and Mad Men.
In the new season, the very last of Mad Men, Don Draper finds himself in a "Leave of Absence". His partners found his behavior vis-à-vis a client unacceptable and they forced him to a break. Don is not good at breaks. Don does what Don wants to do, after all. Don is genuine. After all, what he knows how to do naturally is create, innovate, do. Or as he uttered in a previous season, "I want to work. I want to create something that's mine." And that's why he commits to work. Work lets him be. In work Don finds meaning.
And yet in the new season, he finds himself needing to take stock of everything. And Meagan has left to pursue her acting career in Los Angeles. Don is entirely solo. And as he intimates to Peggy in the current season, he's always alone even when sharing time with Meagan.
Solitude, alas, often happens while in sociality.
Roger Sterling, the very man that found and elevated Don, seems to be the only one who is still fully banking on him. "He's a genius," said Roger in an almost petulant manner as he seemed incredulous of his peers' skeptical view of Don.
All the other partners, including Joan, seem to think that Don is more of a liability and that he, and consequently them, will be better off by going elsewhere.
But Don, who's definitely not a stickler for such 'minor details' as "is he on a Leave of Absence or isn't he?", decides just when he's done sitting on the bench.
Basically, Don knows what Don knows. And what Don knows is a heck of a lot more than the rest of the people in his line of work. And Don wants to work. Don doesn't work because he has to. He works because he needs to. He needs to let ideas go free. He needs to verbalize what comes naturally to him. For Don, work is a mode of escapism. Work always came easily to Don and, as such, it never was a job.
Peggy, in her new-found role as Copy Chief seems to be trying too hard to look important. If only things came as easily to her as they come to Don. But then again, if only Don weren't as darn talented as he is. If he were more, well, average, he would not be the polarizing figure that he is.
And what a great season the very last season of Mad Men is proving to be. I am now almost fully caught up and I reckon I know how it will end. We'll have to wait and see how it does.
I didn't think I'd not mind sharing my media consumption with a total stranger but I'm happy to say I had a great time doing so. And it did help that he's a Mad Men fan.