Talking to Strangers
Back in kindergarten, my parents signed me up for soccer. When one of the counselors came up to me and asked my name, I remained silent. He tried again.
“No name,” I responded. Pre-school and television had taught me not to talk to strangers. For the rest of soccer, I was called Noname. Suffice it to say the experience was a little awkward.
Maybe it was from exchanging stories on flights, but strangers no longer induce the same level of caution in me. During East Bay Open Studios a few weeks ago, I ended up passing a house featuring the photographs of Toby Kahn. I had never heard of or met Toby before, but his photos were amazing. After talking to him about some of his photos, he invited me inside to check out his dark room, and I happily obliged. I ignored every horror story that television loves to play up, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Emboldened by the experience, I started casual conversation with a stranger who was walking her dog yesterday. Noodles was five years old and seemed very curious about me, so I ended up petting her. The fear of getting bitten, which used to be the number one thought in my mind when I saw a dog, is no longer as pronounced.
To what level should a person feel comfortable engaging strangers? Indeed, there are situations in which to exercise caution. A friend once complained to me about some creepy, mangy guy she constantly ran into on BART, who kept trying to ask her out. I joked that he probably lived there and just waited for her to arrive.
The incident reminded me of a scene from Dil Chahta Hai. In the scene, Preity Zinta’s character gets stranded in a Sydney subway station when she misses the train Aamir Khan’s character boards. While waiting for Khan’s character to return, a homeless man slowly makes his way towards Zinta. Khan returns, sees the man, and notices the fear in Zinta’s eyes. The music switches to drums. Khan glares, arches his back and walks deliberately towards the homeless man. He then gives the man a huge bear hug.
“Are you all right, mate? Did she scare you? Don’t worry. I’m here now!” Ah, strangers!