Why you should talk to strangers on the L in Chicago (Part I)

There are lots of reasons you shouldn’t talk talk to strangers, perhaps the most pressing of which is the risk of having a full-length feature movie made about your experience featuring characters sporting costumes from the [19]90s (nice Canadian tuxedo, bucko!).

It was recently pointed out to me that the fact that I don’t know who all of my 900 Facebook “friends” are poses something of a security risk. We probably all know that there are certain neighborhoods to avoid, and that it is a bad idea to be involved in a shoot-em-up-car-flipping-type-of-chase. At least most of us recognize the inherent wisdom in the latter piece of advice.

In the interest of being contrary, I am going to give you four examples (in chronological order) of why it can be a great idea to talk to strangers. I’m not talking about Craigslist creepers or people with guns – I’m talking about having common sense and applying it to personal interactions with random people you may chance to meet in daily life and why meeting cool strangers can actually be a really beneficial activity to engage in for your own life, career, and world view.

For our first example, let’s take a person I’ll call Madame Currie solely for the purposes of this strictly anonymous narrative. As I recall, I met Currie at an orientation event at one of those schools I am always going to. As we were both living on the north side of Chicago at the time, we wound up on the same L train and got to talking.

She kept the conversation, well, conversational, but I was having a rough time of work / school / depressing introspective twenty-something lifestyle, and I told her everything I was thinking / worrying / fretting unnecessarily about. She rolled with the punches, cheered me up tremendously, and even got off the train with me before her stop to accompany me to the Tattoo Factory after I told her I was going to get an angsty tattoo.

We became friends faster than a speeding L train (although they don’t go that quickly because they haven’t really been modernized since the nineteenth century, but allow me to engage in hyperbole for the sake of the story). We spent the rest of the school year carpooling, hanging out, square dancing, singing karaoke, and moving furniture from apartment to apartment on the north side. With her friendship, advice, and cheery spirits, she made me feel okay at a point in time during which I was having SO MUCH ANGST, feeling displaced from my true love (Canada-land), and uncertain about the future.

A few years later, she came to our wedding tricked out as a ninja (appropriately enough!), and we recently had the opportunity to return the favor. I am impressed by her around the world adventuring, her great sense of humor, and her ninja moves (rehashed at her own wedding).

While some people might shy away from too much brutal honesty in a first encounter, Currie accepted me with what I now know to be her trademark kindness, friendliness, and passionate interest in her fellow humans.

It just goes to show you – when someone will go with you on your first friend date on the L to get a tattoo, that Person is a keeper.

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One Response to Why you should talk to strangers on the L in Chicago (Part I)

  1. AYuen says:

    Great story!!

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