January 6 Talking to Strangers

“It is good for art to make us think, give us a shared experience that creates a dialogue, makes us talk to each other, including strangers.” Janet Echelman

If you should ever challenge yourself to talk to a complete stranger with nothing in particular to say and are not sure if they are going to be a chatty Cathy or a bump on the log, make sure you pick good weather.

Sure, I am the one who talks to the sweet little old lady in McDonald’s at 7AM who is drinking cold coffee because she got there at 5AM. The lady whose husband was in the war and who still carries photos of the two of them, circa 1941. Seriously. It has happened. I have listened to holocaust stories, stories of lost loves, migration stories, some of the best damned stories ever told were spoken to me by people that the world has forgotten. When I lived in California, I would often speak to Street People and ask them their story: Who are you? What’s your name? How did you end up here? When is the last time you saw your family? If you are ever in line at the grocery store next to me, I am the one who will engage you in someĀ form of time-passing pleasantries. Go ahead, test me on this. Yes I speak to strangers. Often. So this First wasn’t so much of a stretch, but it was. The reason being, I speak to fairly anonymous strangers. People in McDonald’s, grocery stores and parks – on fair weather days.

Today I spoke to a stranger at work. WORK. Where you may see the person again. Where they may tell people that you are that “crazy lady I was telling you about” who approached while not in line or at a park (the only socially acceptable places for mindless banter), but right there AT WORK.

Why did I do it? I don’t know. It was snowing out, really coming down and he was just standing there, waiting for Someone. Someone who was most likely nestled away in a warm building, mindlessly chatting away with Co-Worker Friends about their holidays. Someone who had lost track of time because they were in a warm, comfortable building. Someone who was in no particular rush to come out and get This Guy, who apparently loved to talk. So right there, amid the snowfall, cold wind and madness that is a sudden winter storm, I said: ” Why are you out here in this?” And there it went. This Guy had a lot to say. He talked about That Guy who had told him to meet at this particular rendesvouz point, at this particular time. He talked about the weather. He talked about Kansas and construction. We even talked about canned peas at one point. I don’t know how long it went on, but I can tell you that This Guy is my role model. He was perfectly content and in full acceptance of his situation: waiting for That Guy. There was no discontent or malice to be found in him. He was just as pleased to speak to me as he would have been to eat a bowl of mac and cheese. This Guy kinda made my day. I hope that Someone eventually found him and took him into a warm building. Thank you, This Guy. You made a cold, winter day , a little bit warmer.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Brian says:



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