I would like to start this with a clarification: Creepy, stalker-ish psychopaths are completely exempted from my definition of “strangers”.
OK. Back to business.
I am not the friendliest of people. My silence is, most of the time, mistaken as snobbery. Truth be told, I am shy. And it takes a while before I open up to people, especially to those that I have only met in under an hour. But sometimes, when the universe acts accordingly, you happen to chance upon someone who could easily break the ice that you are living in, exposing you, and encouraging you to be your untainted self — in all your glorified dorkiness.
This is not about finding your soul mate or anything remotely romantic. This is simply about finding someone whom you can easily talk to and click with. Regardless of gender. Regardless of age. Regardless of race.
A few months ago, I happen to catch a cab on my way to the office instead of taking the bus. I rarely take the passenger seat but on that day I did. The main reason was I was in a hurry and been waiting for over an hour for a cab. Also, as much as I hate to admit it, I trapped the cab driver into letting me in since he appeared to be reluctant to take me to my location, traffic and all. Opening only the passenger window was a clear indication. And so I hurriedly opened the door for shotgun seat, took a seat, and told him that I will just give him a tip. He agreed. A few minutes later, Manong driver’s mobile rang. He took the call (it was traffic anyway) and started talking in Nipponggo. It was a good five-minute call; enough for me to conclude that he is fluent with the language. When he hung up, he smiled at me. I asked him about speaking in Japanese and right then and there, told me about the story of his life. For the last 10 years, he’s been hosting as personal driver for certain Japanese tourists visiting the country. He helps them in hotel bookings, tours, local activities, and the likes. It started with one contact that quickly spread into a network of tourists by word of mouth. Sometimes, he would get overbooked that he would ask the other cab drivers that he knows to help him with the other tourists. Has he ever been to Japan? No, he said. He only became fluent with the language by constantly interacting with the tourists. I immensely enjoyed asking him details on his story, prompting him to share more. He made me realize that I do enjoy talking to old people as much as I enjoy talking to people my age.
And there there’s this other guy whom I just met recently. He’s a non-native who came here for a training that I, so happen, will handle. He was smart, easy to talk to, and has a very amiable nature. On the last day, with a few hours to spare, we had a chance to talk about all things non-work. He told me that he was excited about his engagement and is happy that it would be a “love marriage” for him — in our words, not an arranged one. They’ve been together for years and have a long distance relationship most of the time. Sometimes, they wouldn’t see each other in months. All these talks because he was watching a Gangnam Style video! If you’re not aware of Gangnam, then you have been living in Mars for the past 2 months! Anyway, he told me that he would be dancing that in his engagement party. Haha! And from there, all topics and interests sprung. We talked about movies, TV series, music, techy stuff, and travels — bursting out laughing whenever we find a common interest. It was a very delightful conversation indeed.
In retrospect, what probably amuses me the most when talking to strangers about certain aspects of their lives is how their whole faces would light up when they talk about them. Also, the fact they feel comfortable sharing them to me. By that, I too become hooked and more open to talk about my own interests. Talking to strangers also gives you a more personal depth on a certain topic. The kind of thing that you will never catch on news clippings, magazine features, or online documents. You may not notice it immediately but in a way, you become influenced by that piece of knowledge that that stranger shared to you. No matter how small. No matter how mundane.
It’s like going Trick or Treatin’ on Halloween. You start with an empty basket and comes home with assorted sweets. 🙂