Archive for the ‘Strangers’ Category

Service of Speaking with Strangers

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Photo: sites.google.com

I find it easy to speak with strangers. It may be a New York thing. It came natural to me because when I was small I often saw my mother chat with fellow passengers on public busses or in the grocery store.

In the day, most guests passing one another in a hotel hallway at a resort would say, “good morning” or “good afternoon.”

Some people silently shout out to be spoken to. At an opening at MoMA a friend and I passed a man wearing a tie in primary colors with giant Warhol-style images. I commented on his choice, he beamed, and my friend said, “How can you do that?” I thought, “How could you not?”

I met my first husband in a college library and two of my dearest friends on a train.

Photo: wnyc.org

On my walk to work last week on a 50 degree day I saw a 30-something man who was well-groomed walking across Second Avenue in the 40’s, towards the UN, wearing jogging pants and no shirt, with a backpack. I half turned to a young man waiting for the light to change on 43rd Street as I was and said, “I wonder if he’s going for a job interview?” When I faced him, the stranger in a sweat shirt with a plumbing company logo was giggling. He replied, “I bet he gets the job!”

Speaking with people you don’t know is a good thing according to Elizabeth Bernstein in her Wall Street Journal article, “The Surprising Boost You Get From Strangers.” The subhead, “Sometimes a stranger—not a friend or a loved one—can significantly improve our day, providing comfort or helping to broaden our perspective.”

Photo: languageforlife.ca

She wrote: “ ‘People feel more connected when they talk to strangers, like they are part of something bigger,’ says Gillian Sandstrom, a psychologist and senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, in Colchester, England, who studies interactions between strangers.” The doctor has studies that show people have better days when they’ve spoken with strangers. The same with students who speak with classmates.

“And yet most people resist talking to strangers, she says. They fret about the mechanics of the conversation—how to start, maintain or stop it. They think they will blather on and disclose too much—or not talk enough. They worry they will bore the other person.”

Bernstein continued “And in a study in which she asked participants to talk to at least one stranger a day for five days, 99% said they found at least one of the conversations pleasantly surprising, 82% said they learned something from one of the strangers, 43% exchanged contact information, and 40% had communicated with one of the strangers again, an indication they might be making friends.

“Scientists believe there may be an ancient reason why humans enjoy interacting with strangers. To survive as a species, we need to mate outside our own gene pool, so we may have evolved to have both the social skills and the motivation to interact with people who are not in our tribe.”

Is speaking with strangers a New York City thing because there are so many opportunities to do so? Do you do this? Can you remember a conversation with a stranger? Because so many are wrapped up with their phones, is chatting with strangers a lost art?

Photo: doublemesh.com

 

Service of a Happy Surprise When a Stranger Takes a Minute to Help

Monday, November 27th, 2017

 

Photo:theawesomedaily.com

There’s plenty to gripe about but I want to write about two positive things because you don’t want to hear about my attempt to get to Brooklyn by subway on a recent weekend. Embarrassing how nonexistent were communications that day between the track repair, motorman and station staff for a city the size of NY. We’ve never lived in such a well-connected world and I’ve rarely seen an example of such incompetence as happened that Saturday. Even the relatively new electronic messaging machines were out of order in all stations, bad timing or bad planning? There are NYC neighborhoods, such as Red Hook Brooklyn, where people lose their jobs because city transport consistently prevents them from arriving on time. A disgrace.

Photo: 123rf.com

This is why I especially appreciated what happened on a Metro-North train recently. The doors had closed at our upstate N.Y. station and the train was about to move south when over the loudspeaker the conductor said loud and clear, “We’ve got a runner!” That could have meant lots of things [had someone robbed a passenger and was the person running away? I watch too many “Blue Bloods” re-runs.] But in this case he’d observed a passenger racing from the parking area towards the steps to the train platform. Had he missed this one, the runner would have had two hours to wait for the next train. I trust everyone else appreciated, as I did, the one minute wait so he could travel with us.

Photo: ediblemanhattan.com

In another instance, I was about to leave for the station to meet my husband when over the office loudspeaker we were told that all elevators were stopped until the fire department checked out a smoke condition on the roof. This meant that I was probably going to be late arriving at the gate for our train at Grand Central Terminal because I couldn’t drag my suitcase down 11 flights of stairs.

“Big deal,” say you, because all the people you know carry a mobile phone. Not my husband. I knew he was at the Oyster Bar and I called there. I described him and his suitcase and the approximate location I knew he’d be seated to the woman who picked up the phone and she found him and gave him the message. Wow.

We’re all in such a rush or so involved in our own world we often don’t stop to do something meaningful for a stranger. Do you have any good examples of strangers helping others?

Photo qsb.stanford.edu

Service of Conversations with Strangers: Craft Fair Brings Two Together

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

 

Walk to work

On my walk to work on Tuesday I saw a woman who looked strikingly smart: Fabulous floral patterned coat in muted colors, elegant purse, shoes and leather gloves. I almost snapped a photo of her from behind. She stood about 5-feet tall and had short gray hair—so she probably wasn’t a model–nor did her brisk gait catch my eye.

The look was a welcome break from the thousands of quilted black coats I’ve seen of late, mine included. Moreover, I don’t see that many women on the street looking so put together these days—they must be riding in limos or walking in different neighborhoods.

Etro coatI passed her, continued on my way, my mind on other matters. I’d long forgotten the pleasing visual image when suddenly I heard someone speaking to me, which is unusual on my daily jaunt, once I pass my block.

The voice came from the woman with the amazing coat. She said, “I have the same coat you’re wearing in several colors. I know how long you’ve had it—I bought mine at a craft fair!” [I’ve had the knit swing coat for at least 15 years and love it still. I also bought mine at a craft fair.]

American Fine Craft Fair Brooklyn exhibitor Jae Song's wearable art

American Fine Craft Fair Brooklyn exhibitor Jae Song’s wearable art

I admitted how I’d admired her coat and how tremendous she looked in it and that I’d almost snapped a photo. She said the coat was an Etro [not the one at right, above, though that coat is by Etro] and that she’d had it for four years.  Then she enthusiastically pointed out the chartreuse lining and I the remarkable detailing on the cuffs.

I often compliment a person’s dog which is met with mixed reactions for cultural reasons: Most Americans thank me and smile though generally foreigners don’t. [I live near the UN.] That was only one of the many reasons I was reluctant to say anything to this woman and I’m glad she approached me.Walking the dog

Since I routinely walk rather than take public transportation, where chatter happens more easily, and don’t shop as often as before, I don’t have as many such fun encounters with strangers as I used to and miss them. I know marriages that have happened as a result. Have you enjoyed any you can share?

Chatting on the bus

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