Talking to Strangers

Cedar Park, TX Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Cedar Park, TX
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I’m not a naturally social person.  It’s not that I don’t like people; it’s mostly that I like to be left alone.

I love my friends.  I love spending time hanging out and talking about anything that comes to mind.  But when it comes to strangers, I prefer not to talk.  I believe in politeness and eye contact.  I think that these things are important, and so I stop texting or reading email, make eye contact with the cashier or waitstaff, smile, greet them, and say whatever seems appropriate in that moment.  I do that because I believe that people are feeling more disconnected because of forgetting to do the basics.  However, even though I believe in making human connections with others, I don’t want random conversation.  However, I value those conversations and what I learn about people.  Contradiction?  Yes.  Do I care?  Nope.

I was in the hardware store recently, and as an older gentlemen helped me find the part I needed, I mentioned that I recently moved to Austin.  He started telling me how much he loved Houston, and said, “I’m old fashioned.  I love women with big hair.  In Texas they have more of them, but not as many as they used to.”  People say the greatest and most unexpected things sometimes.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

A few days ago, I went to Walgreens because I needed two small items, and I figured it would be quicker to go to the drugstore than Wal-Mart.  Wrong.

Although I got my items and paid for them in less than 10 minutes, the cashier started chatting, and before I knew it, a half hour had gone by.  I did enjoy our conversation, but in the back of my head, I kept thinking, “I have things to do.  It’s time for me to go.”  I learned about this woman’s first marriage, and her unexpected third child.  I learned that she likes to travel and works at Walgreens so that she has extra money.  I learned that she has Apple stock, and that she once had a customer who gives all her saved money (like if an item is on sale and she saves $1) to her young son, and that he in turn invests the money, and that at 8, he owns stock.  All very interesting, and part of me is glad when I have unexpected conversations with strangers, while another part of me, the larger part of me, still wishes I never had to leave the house.

I have extroverted friends who love talking to strangers, being nosy inquiring about others’ lives, and just generally meeting everyone.  I’m always perplexed by this behavior, but because I can fake extrovert, I get caught up in some of the same types of conversations.  I just don’t happen to enjoy them as much as others.  I enjoy the end result though, which is having more characteristics for my internal character bank.

So what do you think?  Do you love or hate talking to strangers?  Or are you too somewhere in between?

IRL (In Real Life)

Coffee and art.  :)

Coffee and art. 🙂

My husband’s friend recently visited from out of town for a weekend, and it was fun.  We always enjoy having this guy around.  Not only is he my husband’s friend, but at this point, he’s mine too.  It’s nice that I can say that and mean it.

We got to talking about Facebook.  I mentioned that another friend of mine is on Facebook but never goes on Facebook because he blames it for the disconnection of society, which led to a rather interesting discussion on social media.

Social media, at its best, is a tool, like a phone or a hammer.  If I use my hammer to pound in a nail (what the tool is made for), it works perfectly.  If I use my hammer to open a jar, it’ll work.  Once.  🙂  The point is that social media is a tool.  If it’s used to keep in touch with old friends, see their pictures, and stay up on their lives, then in my opinion, the tool is being used correctly.  However, if it’s used in place of a social life, if I’m checking my Facebook feed instead of interacting with another human being, then it’s being used incorrectly.  If I’m using Facebook to be passive aggressive or start arguments that I’d never start in person, then it’s being used incorrectly.  I’m I’m using Facebook to put people down, compare my life to others, or brag, then I’m using Facebook incorrectly.

Back in the 1800s, everyone wrote letters.  They had lovely handwriting and wrote lovely long letters to one another, filled with banal details of life.  The Facebook feed is nothing new; it just takes a different form now.  It’s faster and without filters.  Sometimes I read critical statements about how people share “unimportant” information about their lives, and that’s the problem with the Facebook feed.  Personally, I’d rather read about someone “checking in” than a passive aggressive post telling an unidentified person to stop something.  I don’t mind seeing food pictures or reading that someone is tired, because it’s real life.  We act like things have to be “important,” but why?  Maybe that’s what leaves us feeling lost and disconnected, that idea that others have more important things to say/ do or that others are having more fun.  Why can’t we just be?  And if the most important thing that happened to me today is that my eggs and toast looked like a smiley face, why shouldn’t I post that?

A guy in Australia is in the process of having coffee with all 1,088 of his Facebook friends.  What a fun idea! I would too if I had unlimited income and could fly to Pennsylvania, Maryland, Montana, and more places, spend a few weeks there to see everyone, and have coffee (or lemonade) with all of them.  Still, in my opinion, the point isn’t what he’s doing so much as it is that he’s connecting with old friends, some of whom he probably hasn’t seen in a long time.

All that being said, while I love Facebook and accept it for what it is, I also don’t want it to take the place of real human interaction.  Real human interaction doesn’t have to be face to face.  For example, I have a childhood friend who I was very close to while she lived up the street, but in the pre-social media days, we lost touch when she moved away.  I missed her, but keeping in touch was difficult, and we moved on with our lives.  About 20 years later, we reconnected through the magic of Facebook, and she’s just as zany and interesting as I remember.  I comment on her feed and vice versa, but we also “talk” via messaging and email.  Without Facebook, I probably never would have reconnected with her.  She lives in Montana, and I live in Texas, so we probably won’t be getting together for coffee, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t raise our virtual cups together!

What do you do to connect with old friends?

Doing Stuff Alone

Desert Botanical Gardens Phoenix AZ Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Desert Botanical Gardens
Phoenix AZ
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I recently read an article in which a woman wrote about going to Disneyland alone.  She really wanted to go and no one wanted to go with her, so she hemmed and hawed about it until she finally decided to go.

What’s the deal with not wanting to do things solo?  I’ve never understood why people would feel weird about eating out alone, going to the movies alone, or go to the bathroom alone (that’s a girls’ only thing… I hope).  I love spending time alone.  In fact, I often dream about going on vacation in a nice cabin in the woods… and then I realize that I’d creep myself out with everything I’d imagine lurking in the woods, waiting to eat me.  And that dream dissolves and dies.

But in all seriousness, I don’t mind doing things alone.  It gives me time to be introspective, to read, to write, to observe.  Going to an amusement park alone might be weird for me, since I’m not social.  If you’re someone who enjoys talking to strangers in line, I could see how it would be cool.  Then again, if I were doing it, I’d probably just bring a book and be just fine.  There’d be no negotiating what ride to go on, and no one saying they were tired.  Actually, it does sound pretty good.

Is there anything you don’t like doing alone?  Or something you especially do like doing alone?