Posted in Life

Once upon a stranger

I could never imagine it was something I would find missing in my life.

But that was before we were hunkered down under restrictions spanning the globe because of a tiny, microscopic thing called a virus.

For most of my adult life, I’ve realized that I’m someone who is very “approachable.”  So approachable that I often found myself annoyed by that aspect and I confess that, more times than not, I’ve complained about discussed it with my husband as to the reasons why.

I don’t know if it’s because I don’t look threatening. Or if I just exude a niceness vibe. Or if I just seem helpful. Or if I have an invisible to me, but visible to others sign that hangs around my neck proclaiming, “Talk to me, I won’t be rude to you.”

Or perhaps it’s because I am a mother. When our kids were teenagers, one of their friends once described me accordingly: “Your mom is such a… mom.”  Many of my kids’ friends actually called me mom or Mama M. Honestly, that’s partially where my blog title evolved from – “Mama’s Empty Nest” – named thusly because, in addition to our own children, those throngs of teens and young adults that used to frequent our home grew up and it became extremely quiet around here.

Whatever the reason, I am often a target for complete strangers who find me approachable and available to talk to at length. I could be anywhere, simply minding my own business in a doctor’s waiting room or perusing grocery store aisles, and someone either asks me a question as a conversation starter or just begins chatting with me. Even my husband or someone else accompanies me, I am the one who attracts those folks. It’s like they’ve never heard the term, “stranger danger.”

I must state here that I have never felt threatened by those approaches or that the person attempting a conversation with me has a dastardly deed in mind. No, I simply acknowledge that those chatters must have needed someone to talk to at that particular time and place and there I was. Approachable me.

I can’t even recall all of the instances because there have been so many, but I do remember one occurrence very distinctly. Several years ago, our car needed service at a local dealership and since Papa was still a traveling sales rep at the time and out of town, the chore fell to me.

While sitting in the service department waiting room, an elderly man began chatting me up. I mean talking, talking, and talking. I’m not even sure he gave me opportunity to respond but if he did, I chose not to encourage him with answers and attempted several times to just end the chat, not engage, look away, but true to myself, not in a rude manner. You get my drift.

Finally, one of the garage mechanics stood in the doorway and asked me to step outside the waiting area saying he needed to discuss something about the car with me. Of course, I gladly complied. Once outside the door, the mechanic confessed that there really wasn’t anything to discuss with me, he was just “rescuing” me from the older gentleman.

The mechanic then explained that apparently, that man made it an ongoing routine to visit the garage every few days, without any car needing service, just to converse with customers, continuously. Rather than run him off, the garage employees merely endured him, but also managed to assist those cornered into long one-sided conversations with the fellow escape.

Oh, was I ever thankful for that ‘rescue’ yet as I was paying my bill, the chatter tried yakking to me once again. I simply had to hurriedly walk away to the sanctuary and silence of my car to get away from him, but I vividly remember shaking my head and asking myself, “Why me?”

Why do strangers feel compelled to initiate discussions with me? Why do they desire to tell me their life’s story? Why do they have no qualms about even approaching me let alone spilling their guts?

It’s a mystery I haven’t solved yet, but it’s also a mystery that I find myself missing and I never thought I would think that. Right now those encounters are elements of the past. Of course, we aren’t out and about among strangers very often. But even so, if we do happen to visit a public place, no one approaches me for anything.

This pandemic has made us fearful of other people. Masked up, we can’t see people’s facial expressions easily. We must keep a distance of at least six feet and most people take a wider berth than that around someone in the same aisle as them as though we fear one another greatly.  No one seems to even look at another, let alone stop to chat.

It’s as if we’ve all become robots, simply going about our tasks quickly and without any personal contact with another human being. We’ve quashed human interaction. This cursed virus has stolen that from us in the name of safety. And I wonder how much damage it is inflicting on our mental and emotional health.

I miss those days of seeing other people’s faces unmasked. Heck, I miss seeing people, period. I even miss those times when a complete stranger approaches me to commence a conversation or tell me a story or, like the bearded Amish fellow who once approached me in a grocery store aisle, ask me where the maraschino cherries might be located.

I’m approachable. And I only hope I stay that way because at least it provides interaction with other human beings. I don’t want to live a solitary life without any company. We need each other, now more than ever even if it’s just a chat in a store aisle.

“No man is an island, entire of itself.” ~John Donne

©2021 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Author:

Mama of this empty nest, I’m content to live a quiet, country life with my husband of 40+ years and to view the gorgeous sunsets off my own back yard deck. Mama to three adults and Nana to adorable grandchildren, my empty nest fills up again with noise and laughter when they all return 'home'. A former English teacher, reporter/editor, education director for a non-profit organization, and stay at home mom, I retired after a season of substitute teaching at a private academy. Now I enjoy time spent with my grandchildren and family and writing words that seem to pour out of my soul or wandering around the countryside with my camera. Foremost, my faith sustains me as I meander through the empty nest stage of life. My favorite scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

19 thoughts on “Once upon a stranger

  1. This happens to me all the time, which I think I mentioned on my blog once. I talked about the little girl who walked up to me in the playground and just poured her life story out to be. I was so confused. I’d never met her before and here she was telling me everything about her life. It’s happened in stores, in nursing homes, at doctor’s offices. Something about me says, “Tell her everything dark about my life.”

    I was a reporter for 14 years so having people feel they could talkt to me was a plus back then. Now? It’s a little unnerving, but at the same time I really do like talking to people, learning about them, and having them give me a different perspective on life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just the other day I came home from my weekly trip to the grocery store with a big smile on my face and announced to my husband, “I love the way people out here are so friendly!” I’d had TWO conversations with very nice gentlemen in the grocery store – the first with a man I kept “bumping into” as we did our best to follow the arrows up and down the aisles, searching for things we couldn’t locate; the second with a man carrying only three items who I offered to let go ahead of me at the checkout [there’s generally only one checkout open in our small store; I had a cartload] who insisted on waiting, mostly because I think he just wanted to talk!) I am also one of those people who strangers seem to feel they can strike up a conversation with, and I hadn’t realized how much I actually missed that until my grocery store experience. I imagine there are a LOT of very lonely people out there, just waiting for the opportunity to get out and talk to someone (ANYONE) once again (and I’m one of them!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Somehow I knew that you are one of those approachable people like me. 🙂 Just a short conversation with someone else in person makes our day, doesn’t it? Maybe this is all to teach us a lesson — to remind us that we need one another, we need community and connection with our fellow human beings.

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  3. Here in the UK there was aa Ad campaign…’it good to talk”. I have forgotten what the context of the first Ad was for….. but it has been used frequently in various Ads since. I do know what you mean though. There are a number of people I regularly bump into on walkies with Buster. They are obviously lonely. I don’t cut them short or avoid them as it seems to be the highlight of their morning. But I have learnt to be positive in cutting a conversation short when needs must

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  4. People are always approaching my Mom and beginning conversations with her. I’ve always wondered why that happens to some and not others.

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      1. I don’t ever want to compare anyone to my Mom, but I’d think it’s because my Mother never appears lost in her thoughts. Her face is blank if that makes sense

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  5. I’m glad that I’ve managed to avoid the worst of what you describe, although I see the behavior occasionally. I have my own opinions about some of the ‘mandates,’ and I live according to my convictions. For example, I never wear a mask at work. After all, I’m outdoors, work alone, and there’s rarely anyone within sixty feet of me, let alone six. On the other hand, other dock workers usually are unmasked, too, unless there’s a need to work inside a boat, and that makes unmasked, casual conversation a daily event. I’m glad; like you, I find even those casual contacts important, and I initiate them whenever I can. I refuse to be turned into an automaton.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Since we live in the country, we are able to avoid some of those ‘mandates’ as well and I’m so thankful we live where we do. We don’t wear masks when we’re outdoors at our home or in an area where there’s not a soul around. I truly believe those who are turning into automatons are living in extreme fear and I will not succumb to a life of fearfulness.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. And part of it’s the old human tendency to follow a fad. I know women who have — and brag about — their mask ‘wardrobes.’ The last thing I need is a personalized mask with my name, a slogan, or a whole lot of sequins!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Good grief, that’s pretty ridiculous! But then again, I am not one to follow or indulge in fads. Case in point – I own two masks (one I sewed out of scrap material and one that my health insurance company sent to me free), which I keep washing over and over again. And when I feel extremely restricted by the masks, I wear one of 2 cooling fabric, plain neck gaiters which can be pulled up as a mask.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I feel like I can’t get a deep breath in it. So infuriating when people on social media say to others who say this, “try breathing on a ventilator.” Like everyone who gets it goes on a ventilator. Ummmm… hardly. I only know of two people who have had it around our area that have been on a ventilator. One made and I don’t think the other did. Everyone else, thankfully, has not. Not too mention I read that in the beginning doctors put people on ventilators to protect staff only – not for health reasons. So infuriating. Imagine the damage to lungs and death that caused!

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