My husband is constantly amazed by the fact I will talk to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. When we lived in Virginia, he would hate to go out to the store with me. Inevitably, we would run into someone who would say hi to us, and he would give me that side-long glance that said, tell me you know this person.
For as jaded an area as Jersey is to grow up in, somehow I came away with that strange ability to talk to complete strangers. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t go up to the guy in grimy overcoat with that tell-tale look in his eye as if he is doing an Aqualung impression. Yes, I will raise my hand and proudly say yes, I talk to strangers. I know our mothers always said don’t talk to strangers, we teach our children from a young age the same lesson, and children of the 80’s even heard it from Rick Springfield.
Maybe I am the odd duck, maybe I should listen to those voices in my head of better judgment, and maybe one of these days it will backfire on me. In the meantime, does it really hurt anyone to start-up conversations with a random anyone?
How many times have you been stuck in line at the store the third person in, and suddenly the cashier runs out of bags? The first thought in your head, why I always get in the wrong line. You look up and number two in line looks back at you, and they have that knowing look in their eyes. The one that says they just had the same thought as you. Do we really live in that cold of a society that you can’t say something to that person to acknowledge the shared moment?
You open the door to the mall at the same moment a harried mom of two is wrangling the stroller in one hand and a runaway toddler in the other. What is wrong with holding the door an extra second to allow her to get through and use your free hand to help her guide that stroller? When she gives you that thank-you look through red-rimmed almost teary eyes, who does it hurt to say, let me help you, we have all been where you are and it’s not easy.
Most of us go to the same market week in and week out, and if you go on the same day each week, you are bound to get the same cashier multiple times. You two are stuck there, face to face for 10 minutes while your order is rung up and bagged. Who does it hurt to make conversation and make that person feel appreciated? Do you know how many inconsiderate people come through their line every day not bothering to look up or acknowledge them?
So yes, I talk to people. I know the guy behind the fish counter & the meat counter at the Safeway. I know the gals who do intake and pick-up at the CVS counter. I know the guy in the bakery department at the supermarket too, how do you think I am able to get my family’s favorite Hawaiian bread when the store shelves are empty? He goes in the back and gets me a few frozen loaves so I can keep a stash in the freezer. I say good morning to the homeless guy that walks down Mission Boulevard every morning too. Who couldn’t use some recognition now and again? Is the fact he is homeless make him less worthy?
Next time you pass someone on the street, are stuck in an elevator with a bunch of strangers, see a mother struggling, or get in the wrong line again at the store, remember, it’s okay to talk to strangers. They are only a stranger until you say hello.