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