Thursday, February 25, 2010

talking to strangers.

Do you talk to strangers?

There’s something thrilling about it.  Something scary.  Something refreshing. 

I’m far from being the person that starts a conversation with anyone, anywhere- my mother and I are a bit different in that respect.  I admire how she makes friends with complete and total ease.  When we lived in Indiana, we had a toll booth guy who she chatted with regularly.  Checkout ladies who would give her coupons for margarine when all we picked up was laundry detergent and bread.  I can’t tell you the number of people that have commented to my sister and I, ‘oh you must be Martha’s girls.  How was studying abroad?  Are you still a pilot?  Still dating so and so?’  Ski rental guys who asked about her even when she stayed home for the day. 

It’s never been something that’s come naturally to me.  Although I have had a few conversations with complete strangers, that left strong impressions.  One particular conversation was while traveling in Scandinavia last April.  I’ve hardly ever written about it, even though it was almost a year ago now.  It was one of those moments of fate that seem even more perfect than a puzzle fitting together.  We had walked up and down a street full of restaurants along a canal in Copenhagen.  It was a chilly April evening, and the Danish were out enjoying sips of crisp white wine on café patios.  Notes from a guitar were floating down the walkways the river’s current.  We were hungry and tired.  Every menu had the same thing, making a decision impossible.  Every terrace was packed, making the chance of finding a table slim.  Our choice was made haphazardly, purely out of necessity.  There was a free table; there were our new seats. 

We happened to sit next to a Dane and a Swede, two businessmen that had been traveling and working together for years.  They seemed to know each other better than they knew themselves.  One was an avid golfer, so my grandfather and his wonderful vision made its way into the conversation.  The other was a newly licensed motorcycle driver and a hopeful pilot; we talked of adventures above the earth, between bites of dinner and sips of wine.  We talked about work, about studies, about dreams.  Where they’d taken us, and where they would lead us. 

One of the best parts of the conversation was that it was completely self-contained.  I don’t even know the names of the two people we talked with.  And that’s not the least bit important.  No contact since the conversation, though I’ve thought about it many times since.  The things that were said and shared rang so true to me that it was almost shocking.  That someone so foreign to my life could see things that I never verbalized but that I hoped were true, about my personality and dreams and goals, that was a completely new experience to me. 

An organic view, an unbiased observation- it’s hard to describe, but sometimes I even crave the opinion of someone completely étranger.  I’m almost of the opinion that their word weighs truer, because they don’t know you.  Or is the other way around?   

The compliments that you tuck away and will always remember, did they come from strangers or best friends? 

photo via CUP OF JO


Taylor said...

I loved this post. Just thought you should know.

And I agree, I think compliments are truer when they come from strangers--they're acting on first impressions, rather than from a lifetime of knowing how you think and who you are. It's kind of fascinating.

alli said...

Thanks Tay! I agree with you- there's something about the newness and honesty that comes from a stranger that changes things a bit. 'tis fascinating.

food for thought.

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