I think almost every parent tells their children, “Don’t talk to strangers.” We are taught that strangers are dangerous, can hurt us, abduct us, or worse. That “stranger danger” feeling often follows us into adulthood.
I was asked this week how I handle eating alone, traveling alone, being alone. It was an honest inquiry from someone who has recently moved away from family and friends and is on their own more than they ever have been.
Almost a decade ago, I tried an experiment, starting out small, and eventually adding to it – I challenged myself to talk to strangers whenever I left the apartment. Now, talking to strangers is second nature to me. I do it all the time.
Monday, on my way to Fort Lauderdale, I was in line to board the plane with a man named Glenn, also from Houston. We had a great conversation and went our separate ways.
This morning, I found out a coworker, also in Fort Lauderdale, was taking the same flight home as I was. She has been taking many trips back and forth from Houston to Fort Lauderdale the past few months. When we were in line to board the plane, we both saw Glenn. He had seen her quite a few times at the airport, and he thought it was wild that she and I knew each other and we were all on the same flight home.
I saw him on the plane in the last row. I was a few rows ahead. When we landed, he all of a sudden was right behind me like some sort of airplane aisle ninja. He said goodbye to me and my coworker and we all went our separate ways.
We saw each other again at baggage claim and he exclaimed, “OH MY GAWD YOU STALKER!” and we started laughing. We talked a bit, and as we parted he said, “see you around Airport Dweller.” His wife pulled up and they both waved and merged into traffic.
I think I’d find it incredibly funny if I ever saw him again. He’s about to start working quite a bit on the West Coast.
If I didn’t make a point of talking to strangers, I wouldn’t have had the conversations and laughs I had today. I have a whole list of stories I now have to tell because I went out of my comfort zone to cultivate conversations with strangers.
Try it. One stranger. One person at the mall or the grocery store. Your dry cleaner. The lady who sells hotdogs at the ballpark. Most people will be open to a sentence or two.
Add to your story. Talk to strangers!