October 4, 2021

Remember the TV show Columbo? Peter Falk played the disheveled detective who appears to fumble and stumble, asking endless questions to uncover the murderer.

His classic moment was walking away from a suspect after an apparently completed interrogation, only to turn back and say, “Oh, just one more thing…” And then he asks the question that really goes for the jugular.

Their guard is down, they are hurrying to leave, they never saw it coming. It feels like an afterthought, a throw-away side comment, but it is really the main thing.

Timing is curious, particularly in conversations. We wait until we’re preparing to leave to finally say how much we’ll miss them, or blurt out a lingering question. Why is it that often the most meaningful thing we say or ask is last? Is it hard? Or, like Columbo, do we want to disguise its importance? Maybe it sets us in good stead as we’re departing.

(Exception: Zoom calls, when we’re often abruptly notified the meeting has ended whether we’re ready or not.)

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