Monday, November 7, 2011

Strangers Aren't Always Scary

Today I was on an older train that has seats that face each other. They have two-seaters without enough room for people to actually sit across from each other without mashing knees. You are also forced to keep all your stuff on your lap because there is no room on the floor for your stuff...because you are busy playing footsies and kneesies with a stranger. Whoever came up with this design brainchild should be forced to sit with 4 people in these seats for over an hour.

What typically happens is that two people sit opposite each other, one on the left side of their seat with the other on the right side of their seat. Inevitably, a third person comes along and sits next to one of you, causing the single person to sit with their legs wedged in between. It's completely awkward and a much too personal way to spend your morning with strangers when you are barely awake.

Today I was the middle "guy" and it worked out fine. I was opposite two women who were about my relative height...it can get challenging when a larger man tries to be your menage-a-train-seat-pal. We were all absorbed in our books and it worked out fine. When we got to South Station I noticed the girl across from me was reading "The Book Thief", which I loved. I'm not one to start conversations with strangers but I couldn't resist because her nose was literally almost touching the book. She was clearly absorbed in it so I asked "Don't you just love that book?" She said she did and then she rattled off a bunch of books that she loved and asked if I had read them. "Sarah's Key?" Very sad book but loved it. "Hunger Games series?" Read all three. Didn't think I would like sci-fi but I read all three in 2 weeks. "Unbroken?" I told her it was our next book club pick and I would be reading it next. We were totally into sharing books that we loved and she said "My husband says I'm a book nerd." I told her there was nothing better than a good book..other than sharing the good books with other people. She agreed, we told each other to have a great day, and off we went.

Before I chatted with her I was in the Monday Morning Funk and although I love my job, I was not looking forward to working, after having a fun weekend. I found myself smiling when I got off the train and thought to myself "That was a nice way to start the day". Just a silly 3 minute encounter with a stranger that has similar interests was enough to lift my day.

Sometimes I can't help myself when I see a stranger wearing a pair of shoes or article of clothing that I love and I will go up to the person and just say "Love your shoes!" or "Great coat!" My kids are horrified when I do this when we are together but I always tell them "Believe me, it lifts your day when someone says something nice to you." They don't get it yet, but someday they will. I know when someone stops me and says they like something I am wearing, it makes me feel good.

Morale of the story: Take a risk once in awhile and start a conversation with someone. It may make your day, make theirs, or both.

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