Don’t talk to strangers.
An old pearl of wisdom ingrained into pretty much everyone from the time they come into the world. For kids, it’s remarkably sage advice.
But as you get older, you tend to let things slide a little more. I’ve found over the years (and always enjoy sharing the story) there are two things that pretty much invite the chatting up of strangers: the weather and apparel from pro sports teams.
The weather has a unique ability to bring folks together.
I recently spent the better part of a couple of weeks in Alberta. There were many snow days. Folks in the building I was working in, who knew I was a giant weather wuss from B.C., used this as their opening salvos.
“Hey, you like the snow?”
“Cold enough for you?”
And on and on. It works anywhere, regardless of weather.
How many times during a summer heat wave have you had the person behind you in the grocery store say “boy, it sure is cool in here, eh? It’s just roasting out there.”
A few weeks back, thanks to the curious parking policy in downtown Duncan, I was making my routine pilgrimage to move my truck. In the morning, I park close to the office. Before the three-hour egg timer runs out, I move it far away (well, far away for a guy with 112-year-old knees) to the magical land of unicorns, rainbows and free parking. On one particular day, it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs. Any longish stroll clearly meant my still-prodigious ’do was in some peril, so I set out in search of a cheap umbrella.
The handful of downtown stores I wandered into (my umbrella quest was unsuccessful, in the end I just slapped on a baseball cap and went with the hat-head look for the afternoon) were all full of chatty strangers.
“Wet enough for you?”
“Sure is raining out there, eh?”
Even a nod in reply allowed them to launch into a lengthy conversation. Barriers broken down. Bringing people together, one weather system at a time.
The other thing that can apparently cure many folks of their fear of approaching strangers is the aforementioned sports garb.
If I’m ever feeling especially chatty, I simply slip on either my Seattle SuperSonics throwback gear (people will actually tug on the shirt to get my attention and launch into a Reign Man tale), or (if I’m up for potential negative reaction) my Montreal Canadiens jersey.
Normally, it’s a series of “nice jersey” remarks, thumbs up gestures or folks wanting to discuss the severity of Carey Price’s injury. All people I’ve never met before.
However, the last time I sported the jersey out among the masses I got heckled. Standing in line waiting to pick up a prescription, an old guy actually started to boo me. His wife cracked him with her purse, I gave her a hug and made a new friend. Turns out he was a Bruins fan, so I felt a little sorry for him and let the catcalls slide.
Sometimes, you just can’t avoid talking to strangers.