Say a young woman fresh from work is walking home alone down the alley along the tall hardwood trees one Monday night. A little nearer the edge of the alley, she notices a man walking towards her in the opposite direction. The man, however, changes his course and takes the same route as the young woman’s. She hears the strange man talking to somebody on the phone. She continues walking and so does the man until they are walking the same pace. She becomes uneasy. The man finishes his talk on the phone, looks at the young woman to his side, and strikes up a conversation.
This scenario makes a lot of people nervous. Because the young woman doesn’t know this guy, she doesn’t know if he’s a mugger, a rapist, or a murderer. If a strange man jumped out in front of some woman and started talking to her, she may put a brake on the screaming and running, but she certainly would not respond positively. Most people want as little to do with strangers as possible. They treat strangers with unnecessary suspicion. They are overly cautious around them. For sensible reasons, most of my friends DON’T want to engage meaningfully with someone they don’t know.
But I do.
I do put a general amount of trust in talking to strangers and guess what? It is personally fulfilling. I take it as an opportunity for casual and random interaction between me and someone I’ve never seen or heard of before.
Say the same young woman, despite being on her toes, manages to keep her cool at the straightforward approach of the strange man. She is told not to freak out as he is not a snatcher or anything like that at all. She makes a quick gaze and thinks that the man actually looks harmless enough. The strange man then introduces himself. The young woman is not interested but she makes eye contact, smiles, and nods anyway. All for civility’s sake.
True. The only thing most people, myself included, expect and want from strangers at a personal level is civility. Without any existing foundation, an external set of loosely agreed-upon social mores is almost always required.
Sometimes in my case, though, it’s about going over the top.
The man asks the young woman her name. The young woman makes it known. The man finds her name bizarre. He asks her where it is derived from. She challenges him to a guessing game. He accepts. He makes several wrong guesses. He tsks. He makes one more wild guess. The young woman only smiles. He takes it as a yes. He punches his fist in the air and says “yes!”. The young woman laughs. She then takes her turn. She guesses the derivation of his nickname. She makes several wrong guesses. She ughs. She makes one more wild guess. The man grunts. She takes it as a yes. Her inner goddess grins in victory. They laugh.
Yes, indeed, laughing with strangers is a wonderful experience. It brings to mind another memory of laughing with a stranger. A man was in a hurry to get in the elevator he thought was empty. I must have been wearing an invisibility cloak at that time because he didn’t seem to see me. I was at the farthest corner while he stood a few inches away from the elevator door. When he turned around, imagine his horror when he saw me. His face was priceless. I laughed. He realized how silly he must have looked and he began to awkwardly laugh too. And we just laughed and laughed and laughed all the way.
They are both nearing the bus stop where the young woman always waits for her bus to arrive. The man thinks their encounter was fleeting and believes that they have something special in common. He implies that he doesn’t want to limit it to just one occurrence. He asks for the young woman’s number. The young woman says she has just lost her phone and does not remember her new number. Truth. The man doesn’t buy it. He insists. The young woman tells her to just give her his number. She will call. The man ‘gets’ it. There is no way he is getting this woman’s number.
Ladies, any polite excuse you use that is effective when you don’t feel like giving out your number to a stranger and you don’t want to hurt their feelings? And what about you, gents? Has a girl just automatically blurted out that she has a peernyas (or peernis or pe….neers) after you asked for her number? Still clueless as to how you can ask a girl for her number? J Lapis might help. Read about it here.
Suppose the same man comes up with another tactic and rides the bus with the young woman as he tells her he is going northbound just like her anyway. They sit next to each other. The woman becomes more watchful but still remains as cool as a cucumber. The man makes another conversation. Quite interesting so she listens, nods, smiles – also for civility’s sake again. Her stop is there and she gets down and she sees the man get down too. She sneers. The man finally confesses he is not from around the same area but that he just doesn’t want to let her go easily and riding the bus with her has seemed like the only way for him to get to talk to her. He then boldly offers to walk the young woman home. Trusting her instincts, the young woman lets him.
Wait – what?! Who lets a total stranger walk her home based on such instinct? Is she not aware of all the psychos out there lurking, oozing with charm, just waiting to run into a gullible girl like herself? Doesn’t she have any sense of healthy suspicion at all?
Such questions can possibly come from concerned friends like mine and their concern is always highly appreciated. But because strangers don’t really scare me at all just like they do many other people, I just tell my friends that it is in the spiritually and emotionally uplifting idea and sense that I am not alone, that there are lots of people out there like me who are pleasant, bright, interesting and funny, and that not everybody who walks the same pace with me are muggers, rapists, and abusers. After all, these strangers stop being so over time. They become people we know – friends, lovers, colleagues, Romans, and countrymen…
Plus, I have my instinct to trust.
The young woman and the strange man manage to have a decent conversation on the way and it is pleasant.
(Related Post: Question 740)