Talking to Strangers

As a child the mantra is hammered into our heads relentlessly. “Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t talk to strangers”, but once you enter the adult world, it turns out that almost every single person there is a stranger, and we have little choice but to talk to them. I get that it’s a necessity to talk to some people we don’t know, the satellite repair guy, the waiter at the restaurant, or the person showing up on your doorstep claiming to be your child, but there are certain instances when I think we should revert back to that childhood saying, ignoring strangers and refusing to talk to them altogether, like this morning for example. I was awakened before six once again by the raccoon that has become my wake up call, scratching the wall near my bed, and since I was up, I figured I would go out for a nice walk to start my Sunday. For the past two weeks I’ve gotten up early Sunday morning to go for a walk, which some might interpret as taking some initiative to exercise and start the day out on the right foot, but let me dissuade you from that notion immediately; the only reason I go so early is because I enjoy being outdoors and anytime after seven is way to hot to leave the house for anything except for ice cream and to get away from the child I previously mentioned, so that is how I came to be walking along the banks of the Mississippi river so early this morning.

There weren’t a lot of people out, but there were definitely enough to annoy me. It’s not that the presence of people is inherently annoying to me, but every time someone is approaching me as I walk I start to get really anxious and nervous, not because I think they mean me any harm, but because I’m wondering if they are going to talk to me or if I should initiate a greeting. This didn’t bother me at all the first time I was out walking, because I didn’t know any better. The first time I was approached I behaved like a normal human, politely looking straight ahead as if that person did not exist, but then I heard the words, “Good morning” he said, and I was completely taken aback. By the time I registered that it was me who he was speaking to we had already past each other, but I turned around and mumbled a feeble “g’morning” in his direction. From that point on I began to overanalyze the coming encounters with people on the trail ahead, and it made me really uncomfortable.

It doesn’t make any sense to me that strangers who have never seen each other before, would say good morning or hello to each other in passing. Is this common human courtesy or a ridiculous tradition that needs to stop immediately? The only time I’ve ever initiated any kind of conversation with a complete stranger was when it was required by my job to do so, because unlike some of these other people populating the earth, I still hold a firm respect for the words my parents spoke to me as a child; “Don’t talk to strangers.” I’ve also been burned on some of these walks too, initiating the greeting only to catch the other person off guard. I want to yell that I didn’t want to say hello in the first place but apparently it’s something we have to do now, but I figured they probably already thought I was crazy enough, so I didn’t divulge this information. Can we just all agree that there is nothing to be gained from talking to strangers in passing? It would make me feel so much better if everyone could just agree to act like everybody else just doesn’t exist.

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