"A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet."
It's spontaneous... not preplanned, when you make a comment, out of the blue, to a total stranger. It happens quite often in my life and I'm not sure why, but I do like the interaction. I have friends who would never think of doing something like that and find it quite peculiar that I do it so often. I do remember when I was very young, I was more on the shy side and did not like talking with strangers but then it all changed.
Perhaps it happened in nursing school when nearly every day during our clinical rotations, I had to talk with my patients who I had never met before. Not only that, but I had to do it while I performed a treatment, took vital signs or gave medications, and in doing so, I could see how it put the patient at ease as I went about my job and before I knew it, I became fascinated with what they were saying. We all have a story to tell and that is what makes each person so unique. After all, if you know nothing about a person, how can you ever develop empathy for what they might be going through?
Since retiring, this happens most often when I go to the grocery store or when I am out looking for a photo op with my camera. The one day I ran to the store to pick up just a few things and decided to get several ears of corn. As I have always done, I pull back the husk just enough to be sure that the kernels are plump and fresh as opposed to dried out. Soon another fella came up and started doing the same thing and I nonchalantly mentioned that I thought I was the only person to check the corn in this manner. With that he started to laugh and a conversation ensued. He was somewhere close to my age and obviously had time on his hands so we stood and chatted.
Well, we chatted so long that I saw people coming in with empty grocery carts and leaving with them filled. We hit on a common love of the Northwest, but neither of us could remember the name of the huge mountain/volcano that is so elusive behind cloud cover and can only be seen on a clear day. And no... it was not Mt. St. Helens. I guess we were both having a senior moment.
We shared how we each ended up in Texas... and neither by choice. He told me about his various occupations, his family, and some adventures that he has had through the years. It was thoroughly enjoyable for each of us and as we picked up our corn and prepared to go our separate ways he said to me that this has never happened to him before. I had no idea what he was talking about, and then he clarified... talking with a total stranger like this! I could not believe what I was hearing. He was so relaxed and such a good raconteur. He went on to say that the only people he would have such a conversation with would be his family or the people in his church. I laughed and said I talk with strangers all the time! We introduced ourselves by name, shook hands and he said he could not wait to go home and tell his wife about our conversation and that he hoped to run into me again sometime to continue the conversation! His name was Bernie.
So... as I approach the check-out area, who should I run into but my husband. He thought perhaps I had "gotten kidnapped" as I was only going for a few things, but then again, he knows how I am. With that, I asked him the name of the big mountain in Washington state and he too could not remember the name. So what do you do when that happens... find someone with an iphone! We asked a fella who was working there if he knew the name of the mountain and sure enough within a minute's time he pulled out his phone and gave us the name of the mountain... Mt. Rainier! About that time I looked up to see Bernie and called him over to meet my husband and told him about the fella helping us figure out the name of the mountain. And then we talked with that fella who said he came to this country from Japan when he was 8 years old and could remember the volcano near where they lived in Japan.
Sometimes you can inadvertently touch on a very sensitive subject quite innocently. There was a woman in the grocery store on another day and she had so many bananas in her cart! I couldn't imagine anyone eating so many bananas so I lightheartedly said... "WOW! You must really like bananas!" Now... she could have ignored me, or just smiled or laughed and walked away but she stopped and started to talk with me. She was probably in her 70's and said that she takes all of her pills with a banana and it seems to help her to swallow them. After a bit of idle chatter she went on to say that her boyfriend just died and that she is feeling so very sad. Tears welled up in her eyes as she shared this with me. I told her how sorry I was to hear that. She thanked me for talking with her saying that she enjoyed our conversation and it seemed to make her feel a little better. I just never would have expected such a conversation with a total stranger in the middle of the produce aisle.
And how can I forget the woman I talked with in the parking lot as I headed towards my car on that same day. She apologized for how she looked as she had been painting. I had assumed painting a room perhaps but she told me she is an artist, lives across the lake and cares for her elderly mother. We talked about art and photography and then I came to find out that her son is a photographer also. As we were about to go our separate ways, I said that she would know I was shopping in the store if she saw my car, and I pointed to the "Lalalmobile" with all the bumperstickers. She started to laugh and said she has seen the car before and always wondered whose car it was... and now she knows!
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