En route to Philadelphia for his cousin’s wedding this weekend, my husband called from Memphis. (Let’s all just ignore the fact that Memphis is not even remotely “en route” to Philadelphia from here.)
“We had lots of turbulence,” he reported. “Not the worst I’ve ever experienced, but enough that people were talking to each other.”
Enough that people were talking to each other.
Even though I’m the kind of person strangers always talk to on airplanes, even when I want to be left alone, he’s not and I knew what he meant.
It’s fair to say that when you’re in public, few things make you really take notice of other people. This is especially true of those who live in big cities, at least of those in the international cities* where I lived abroad during college. But it’s also true here in small towns. When we don’t know people, we don’t tend to interact with them.
Unless something happens.
Turbulence on an airplane, or worse, cancelled flights.
A fire alarm unexpectedly going off at the library.
A downpour of rain stranding shoppers with carts full of groceries.
I’m sure you can think of other instances.
Is it when people feel stuck? Or vulnerable? Or annoyed?
Or simply when something interrupts business as usual?
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.
I suppose here's where I'm going with this: Why not make interactions with strangers business as usual?
* One time, riding in the tube in London, we were seated along the sides of the train and faced our reflection in the opposite mirror. To be funny, I started sneaking little waves at Jonathan in the reflection, and probably making some silly faces, too. After a few minutes, the man opposite us, whom I hadn’t noticed until that point, reluctantly and embarrassingly waved back at me, having assumed I was lavishing my attention on him the entire time.