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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I Talk to Strangers

On our recent trip home from a family reunion we stopped at a Whole Foods store. They had a sample of salsas set out that were tasty, but the item I was interested in was the chips. They had sesame seeds and other mixed grains and they were yummy. I asked the man at the counter if he could tell me what type of chips they were. He couldn't but another shopper pointed out to me where the empty bag was so I could see. I thanked him then noticed he was of a different nationality that what is predominate in Salt Lake City.

I thought he looked like he might be from India, so I asked him if he was. No, he was Israeli. I explained that being from Utah I wasn't as familiar with other nationalities as I would like to be. He was most patient and kind. We continued talking and I discovered that he was vacationing in Utah and was currently living in N. Carolina.

He mentioned he was an author and his first book was due out soon. He even gave me a card. I told him I sometimes reviewed books on my blog. We talked about his book and my blog. He was interested in my blog and told me he would love to send me his book for me to review.

He asked me to contact him on his website. I said I would identify myself as the lady who talked to him in the Whole Foods store in SLC. He said I could just say I was the lady from Utah and he would know who I was because I was the only one who had talked to him in Utah. How sad is that?!

A few years ago my niece told about someone who talked to her in the elevator. I said that was something I would so do. She said she thought of me when it happened and went on to say it annoys her when people do that. I was crushed. My sister then went on to say how much she hated it when people would stop and ask her what she was reading. Oh, dear - me again! I thought of how many people I had engage in wonderful conversations about books on a recent trip.

There were the two couples sitting outside their motel room in Thermopolis, WY - all 4 were reading. The women told me how the 2 couples have been taking short trips together for years. The wouldn't go far, but stayed several days and played games, fished and read. The women exchanged books with each other. "In fact, we both just finished this one by Lisa Gardner. We love her. Why don't you take it?" So I was given a free book by a new-to-be author that came highly recommended.

On that same trip I struck up a conversation with a high-school student who is a voracious reader. His favorite book was Dune. As we talked we both pulled out a scrap of paper and wrote down titles of books the other recommended. Soon his mother joined us and I add even more books to my list.

The other day at a restaurant in our home town I passed a table where two black man were sitting. One gave me a friendly look and an 'almost' smile so I stopped and asked them where they were from. (In my small Utah town we don't have the wonderful cultural variety that other places do - I are short-changed!) They were from Sudan. Candleman was with me and he asked pertinent questions about the strife going on in their country. It was very interesting. They were happy for the visit, too.

What about you? Do you wish people would just mind their own business and ride up quietly in the elevator? Leave you alone when you are reading? Are you the type who will engage in conversations with strangers?

26 comments:

Candleman said...

I'm not as likely to strike up a conversation with strangers as you are. That's why I like hanging around with you, because it's always an adventure.

I remember a conversation you struck up with a book seller in Gander, Newfoundland and how after talking for 10 minutes you discovered another customer standing behind you in line. You apologized for causing such a delay, but the man said, "No, no, no, the conversation was so interesting, it too, didn't notice the time."

My life is so enriched by the people and books you have brought into it by reaching out to strangers.

I wish I had your knack for doing it so gracefully. I can also identify with those you mention of the opposite opinion, but they wouldn't hold that opinion if they'd encountered a stranger such as you.

Kristen M. said...

I don't usually initiate conversations with strangers but I also usually don't mind when someone starts one with me, especially if they are well-intentioned. After all, it usually passes the time in a place where everyone is waiting and bored!

As for being kind to the minorities in Utah, I think that's an absolute essential! One afternoon my boyfriend (now husband) and I were at his apartment and a door-to-door salesperson came by who happened to be African-American. We weren't interested but he thanked us for being the first people to be polite to him. We ended up walking down the block with him and just chatting about life. We (being from Southern CA) didn't even know that certain people get a negative reception in Utah. Quite sad. Kudos for being one of the thoughtful people.

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

I have to confess that I'm more like your niece---I generally cringe when strangers strike up conversations with me, except when it's about books. Approach me at the grocery store or in an elevator or the waiting room at the doctor's office, and I'll run the other way. Ask me what I'm reading, and I'll talk to you for a few minutes (but then I'll go back to reading).

Booklogged said...

Candleman, you always say the nicest things.

Kristen, truthfully there are times I don't want to be talked to either. So the question becomes when is it okay and when is it not?

Rebecca, I wish I knew when it would bother someone if I talked to them. I certainly don't ever want to offend someone.

wheresmyrain said...

i love talking to strangers, it sometimes little moments of connection like that that can make my day, i dont mind people talking to me either, if im not in the mood, i will usually give off that vibe anyways and am avoided. i think its loveley that you talk to people like that

Cassie said...

I would love to be around when you do strike up a conversation with a stranger to see how you do it. Maybe you just start conversations more gracefully then what I have encountered. I can see how it has added spice to your life and I am a little jealous of your talent. I think I'm okay when people ask what I'm reading.

The other day I was holding an audio book and a woman in the elevator asked about it and after the slight twinge of having to talk to someone I explained a little about the book and we kept talking for a couple more minutes as we headed out the door. So I'm getting better.

Cardine said...

I think that striking up conversations is awesome. I generally don't do it, but I love it when people do with me. People are so interesting! Also, I would bet that 95% of people enjoy talking to strangers, even if they aren't the ones to strike up the conversation.

pussreboots said...

Unless I have a raging headache I will talk to strangers.

Hazra said...

I am a little reserved, so I am not usually the one striking up the conversation. But if someone else gets the ball going, I am all for it.
I remember this conversation an elderly gentleman struck up on the train: we started with something about the quality of food served, and ended talking about NASA's moon mission. Definitely one of the most illuminating stranger conversations I've had.

Cath said...

Well, I personally hope you never stop talking to strangers. It's what I do all the time and is something I particularly enjoy when visiting the USA. Such lovely people speak to us - a lovely older couple in a motel in Watkins Glen, NY, who sharded their cold drinks with us, a couple from Boston who were on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a volunteer in a Native American museum in the wilds of NY chased us - she'd heard our English accents and wanted to know what an AGA was because she saw it in a book didn't know, LOL, a volunteer in the Olympic skiing place in the Great Smokies talked to us for ages because the place was empty - we all put the world to rights. The list is endless and it's one the things I like most about visiting your country. So please, never stop talking to strangers, it will be a sad day indeed if people ever stop communicating.

DesLily said...

ummm.. i'd be one of those talkers. heh.

jenclair said...

People often strike up conversations with me! I have a face that everyone seems to recognize--"You look so much like...my college roommate, my cousin, my mother's best friend." I love having the opportunity to find out more about people and especially if they like books. It is the easiest and most interesting kind of conversation for me!

Holly said...

While I'm not the most outgoing person, I actually find it easier to talk to strangers than I do people I know. Isn't that weird? It usually doesn't bother me at all to have people strike up conversations. (Although some people just have an uncomfortable vibe.)

I often find myself talking to people in lines, or at a theater waiting for the show to start or at a ball game. I love it when I can talk to people about books, either because of one I'm reading or one they're reading.

The last time I flew home from Utah to Idaho, I ended up sitting in a row with two delightful women and we talked about a lot of things, but one of them and I ended up talking about books, because she'd commented on the one I was reading (Tuck, by Stephen Lawhead). It was great.

Like I said, I often find it easier to talk to strangers than I do people I sort of know (like at church, etc.).

Booklogged said...

Wheresmyrain, I'm wondering where my rain is today. It's overcast and nice and cool, but no rain. My yard is so thirsty, too. It definitely adds interest to life to reach out and talk to people, doesn't it?

Cassie, you hadn't commented for awhile so I thought you'd stopped reading my blog. Keep in mind that was Candleman's description not mine. Have you ever noticed me being gracious?!

Cardine, thanks for the encouraging. With that high percentage I guess I'll keep talking to strangers.

Pussreboots, a headache takes the life out of everything. I also won't talk to strangers if I'm in a scary place or if I'm alone somewhere. Grocery stores are fine because of the people. Oh, and it needs to be daytime!

Carrie K said...

I talk to strangers all the time. There are some fascinating folks out there!

Booklogged said...

Hazra, that sounds like a fun conversation. Were there others involved, too?

Cath, I've never been to England but I bet there are friendly people there, too. I have to admit I don't know what AGA is either?

Deslily, maybe we'll wind up in the same place sometime and start talking to each other. Fun, huh?

Jenclair, I think even if your face didn't remind me of someone I'd talk to you because you have a friendly face.

Holly, I am the same way. I've basically turned into a hermit, but when we're traveling I can strike up a conversation with strangers. I've wondered about why that is and I've decided it's about commitment, being healthy when they need me, feeling able to follow through. I wonder if I would be a recluse if I was healthier. Who knows?

Framed said...

I don't like to be asked what I'm reading because it's always people who know me and who don't really care what I'm reading. I can't remember a stranger ever asking me. I talk to strangers all the time at work but seldom anywhere else. But I like it when they talk to me, unless I'm obviously engrossed in my book. Julie is another one who is wonderful at striking up conversations with anyone. What a great talent yo both have.

ProdigalWife said...

If I'm reading I don't want to be bothered, but other than that talking to strangers can be fun! We've tried to teach our daughter (now 12) the difference between talking to strangers and running off in a car with them, and I think we've been quite successful, but I fear we're in the minority and most people (especially young people and children) would rather look at the floor than risk making eye contact with anyone.

Robin said...

What a fun post! I enjoying talking with people everywhere. I learn so much!

Bookfool said...

I'm a chatterbox. I talk to anyone and everyone. Some people respond and some just look at you like you're an alien. I'm sure you've gotten a bit of that. I cannot sit near someone who is reading a book without asking about it.

Lexi said...

Depends on the day and my mood (and maybe also how much caffeine I've had so far that day). Some days I like chatting with strangers, especially about books, although I am unlikely to be the one to strike up the conversation, for fear that I am bothering the other person. Other days, it's a chore for me to make small talk and I may even resent someone for trying to talk to me, if my mind is preoccupied.

Cath said...

Booklogged, an AGA is basically a stove. But it's the Rolls Royce of stoves because they're usually big, made of cast iron, and coal or oil fired. You kind of have to learn a whole new way of cooking to cook on one and people who have them almost worship them. I know because my late mother-in-law had one. :-)

Susan said...

What a very fun post, Booklogged! At first I thought, oh no, someone who talks in elevators! then I thought, wait a minute - I do talk to strangers, usually if we are stuck in line and I happen to meet their eyes, or at a check-out line. When I was very young, I travelled across Canada by myself twice, and I met lots of people that way - something about being stuck on a bus or train for days makes people much friendlier! I know that I'm much more reserved now, or at least I think I am, because somehow there's certain people at all the stores I go to that I'm getting to know a little now! but definitely I'm not as extroverted as you. I love what your husband wrote as well. *sigh* that's so romantic!

Les said...

I love to talk to strangers - about books, their gardens, their dogs, where's a good place to eat in their community, etc. I'm in a great job that encourages me to talk to strangers about what they like to read.

I think the only time I would mind when a stranger talks to me is if I'm trying to read, say on an airplane, and they don't stop chattering. Other than that, I don't mind one bit!

Lisa R.D. said...

I love talking to strangers... my husband rolls his eyes at me sometimes, but that's okay. I agree with another comment that I've tried to teach my kids the difference between talking to strangers (being friendly) and hopping in a car with someone they don't know.... it can be a fine balance. I think there are so many people out there with different backgrounds and so much to offer that can enrich our lives! Great post!

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