Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Talking to Strangers

It’s something your parents have taught you not to do since you were a little kid, especially ones offering strange candy. Yet, in NYC I find myself talking to people I’ve never seen before, and am likely to never see again on a regular basis. Strangers often approach me and strike up a conversation too. I was talking to a friend over the long weekend, and she said in London, this is something people absolutely do not do, and she kind of misses it.

Think about it, you’re standing in line at Starbucks, and it’s taking forever. It’s more likely than not that someone in the line will want to commiserate with you. Or you and one other stranger happen to be the only people around to witness that totally crazy thing that homeless person is doing. It’s nice to be able to check and make sure that’s actually happening with another sane individual. A few days ago, I asked a woman to borrow a section of her paper on the subway so I could read an article about how to prepare for music festivals (Yes, I’m going to Bonnaroo, and I AM unbelievably excited). Just last evening, I was checking out at the supermarket, and not only did the girl in front of me strike up a convo, but the checkout boy decided it would be a good opportunity to flirt with me the entire time he was ringing up my groceries (Yes, it made things a little awkward). People chit chat with me at the gym who I’ve never met before about what college I went to (because they saw it on my t-shirt), or how difficult the yoga class I’m waiting for is.

I never really thought about how much I talk to people I don’t know until I thought about not being able to do it anymore if I lived in a different city. Maybe I just appear friendly, so people feel comfortable chatting me up. Or maybe I’ve been living in NYC so long that I don’t really have any boundaries any more about speaking with people I don’t know. One thing’s for sure, in a city of 8 million and counting even though I have a lot of friends, the people I don’t know will definitely always outnumber the people I do. Why not spice up our days by actually treating the people around us like human beings? The people you encounter tend to have a big impact on whether your day is a good one, or a bad one. Being nice to strangers is a really good way to make it a better one, or at the very least to make little kids afraid to bother you during your commute.

If you live in NYC, when’s the last time you made conversation with a stranger? If you live somewhere else, do you talk to people you don’t know?

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