Today I was reminded to not be afraid or reluctant to talk to strangers.
While I was waiting in line at the US embassy to get through security (that place is not joke), the man in front of me asked me whether I had a job visa interview. My first impression was he is eloquent, well dressed and has a professional yet not over bearing demeanour. Within minutes, I learnt that this was his fourth time at the US embassy here in Auckland (it never stops being a serious hassle), as he has to come in every time to renew his working visa. Most people that come in for interviews are students and he’s seen the same security guard here for the last 10 years. He works as a member of the cabin crew, which mostly flies to San Francisco and before that he was based in Japan for several years. He studied law at Auckland University but despite enjoying the course he knew he would never practice law. He enjoys his itinerant lifestyle which was a mid life change. In turn, I told him of my study plans in the US. He left before me after his visa appointment and on his way out he kindly wished me luck with my future studies.
This occurrence was reminiscent of another experience a couple of months ago when I was sitting at a McCafé in Zhuhai, China. I was writing in my journal and as a western looking man walked past he stopped and simply stated ‘You’re writing English’. I explained why I was in China and he told me that he is working in the Chimelong ocean kingdom as a jet boat performer for the next 6 months. Coincidentally that weekend I was actually going to the Chimelong theme park. Turns out he is originally from Australia and of course I had to let him know I’m from the neighbour country!
Although nothing ground-breaking came out of either conversation, it was strangely pleasant to talk to a stranger. I think its because there’s no baggage. You converse for a few minutes, your paths cross for a brief moment and that’s it. There is neither build up nor follow up.
These encounters remind me that the next time I’m alone in a public place, I’ll tell myself to find that small bit of courage to talk to someone new. Striking a casual conversation with a stranger might allow you to learn something new albeit trivial, it could be an interesting time filler or just through a brief shared moment with someone new you can be left in a good mood.