I like to think of myself as an approachable individual – someone who strangers feel comfortable striking up a conversation with. And I don’t say that as a vague, blanket statement that most people use to compliment themselves. I say that because it happens to me all the time.
Strangers coming up to me isn’t a new thing. It’s not a fad. It’s been happening for a while.
One instance I remember was when I was 13 years old. I was standing in line at the food court waiting for my order of french fries, when I got a tap on the shoulder. I turned around and there were two girls standing behind me.
One girl said, “Hi, my friend thinks you’re really cute. Do you want to go on a date with her?”
So many things ran through my head between the time she finished her question and the time I quietly mumbled, “No, thanks.” In real time, it was about 1.8 seconds. In my head, it was an eternity.
I remember the girl – who apparently thought I was “really cute” – was wearing so much makeup I didn’t even know where her eyes were. That’s not me being offensive, that’s me telling the truth.
They stormed off with linked arms, muttering stuff like “you made a big mistake” and “you broke her heart”. By the time I turned around and received my order of fries, the cashier’s eyebrows had already taken the elevator to the top floor of her forehead.
More recently, though, I am still approached many times in public places.
In downtown Toronto, I’m basically an unofficial tour guide. I’m rarely down there, but every time I am, I must carry a “fresh meat” odour with me. People have gone out of their way, in a huge crowd, just to ask me for directions.
I was at a sporting event last year and I was waiting for someone in the concessions area while I held two slices of pizza. A security guard came up to me and she said, “Oh, I see you bought me dinner.”
And then we got into a short conversation about the brilliance of buying pizza as soon as the doors open – it’s the first batch of pizza made that evening and is, obviously, still hot.
Another time, a guy came up to me on a crowded sidewalk and asked if I’d like to donate money and support his charity. I turned him down, he shook my hand, said “no worries, my brother” and walked away through the crowd.
It was as if I had just met Jesus and I’m the only one who saw him. This guy didn’t proceed to ask anyone else for a donation. He was just there for me. I felt special, singled out, weirded out, and once again, approachable.
Even when I was in Cleveland last summer – a foreign country – I developed a rapport with a disgruntled customer at McDonald’s. He hadn’t received his order after twenty minutes (they had forgotten about him) and started talking to me.
After we had sat down at opposite sides of the restaurant, he walked by me to go up for more food. I said something to him like, “Going for more, huh?” I had no business saying that. That’s something you say to close friends, if anyone. He said, “Yeah.”
Makings of a bromance, I tell ya.
Less than three minutes later he walked by again with his food and I said something like, “Wow, they were fast this time!” He replied, “I know! I’m shocked.”
If that wasn’t me living out the “friendly Canadian” stereotype perfectly, I don’t know what is.
Maybe it’s not so bad wearing an imaginary sign all the time that says, “Come talk to me.”
I’m going to end this post here – sorry it’s a bit abrupt – because this isn’t what I initially intended to write about. What I wanted to discuss was going to come after this “short introduction”, but the words I want to share haven’t been able to exit my head. It’s been a four hour struggle.
So instead of forcing it, I’ll write it another day this week.
Do strangers approach you in public? If so, let me know. We can start a club called, ABS – Approached By Strangers.