Talking to strangers can be a challenging task. In a lot of cases, there’s a clear red flag when a stranger comes up to you because who in their right mind goes up to a random stranger and just starts a conversation?
People who can ignore social cues and context to spark intimate conversations with strangers often have some ulterior motive. It’s strange, it’s jarring and uncalled for, and most people with good intuition will sense something is off. Of course, I’m not saying talking to strangers is a bad thing, it’s really sweet and wholesome – as a concept. In practice? If someone you’ve never seen before came up to you and just started a conversation? Asking you about your family life or stuff you like to do on your personal time? That’s really fishy. A lot of people often complain about modern day society being unable to interact with strangers properly – being too cold or reluctant to talk to others but it’s for a good reason. Why do you think so many people in the 70’s got murdered opening their door for random strangers and getting into people’s cars?
Take the example of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus and Peter were complete strangers when they first met. Jesus just walked up to a random guy and said “I’ll make you a fisher of men” and Peter (who was that random guy) was like “Yup, sounds cool bud. Let’s go.”
That was over 2000 years ago. If you really think about it though, how would that sound in a modern day context? Some random guy comes up to you, says “Hey, drop all your belongings for me let’s go fish for a man”. You’re going to:
A. pepper spray him
B. call the police
C. the most logical option: laugh awkwardly and walk away – pray to god he doesn’t talk to you again.
Of course, this is all contextual and these are very extreme examples. Not every stranger you meet is going to murder you and if a stranger comes up to you in a classroom setting and starts a conversation, it’s not odd at all. But if you are a young girl (like me) and an older man approaches you on the skytrain asking questions about yourself, you are going to feel threatened. It’s not prejudice, or having a negative bias – it’s common sense and self-preservation. Often times when an older man is approaching you asking for your name and age, it is not good news. I’m not saying there aren’t instances where grown men approach you with a completely innocent intent – because there are, there definitely are, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Because of this wariness I have with strangers, I am extremely reserved when it comes to interacting with people. So the task of talking to a stranger seemed pretty challenging to me, so I went with a very safe option – starting a conversation with a bus driver. Because the bus is a safe controlled environment that feels safe, it wasn’t super risky for me to start talking to a bus driver.
Unfortunately, I am not the best conversationalist. Our conversation went something like “Hi, how are you?” “I’m good, and you?” “I’m good thank you.” before it died, followed by a “Thank you!” “Have a good night!” twenty minutes later when I got off the bus.
The bus driver was a stranger to me, but because I knew one thing (their profession) I felt comfortable and safe around them. Truthfully I would constitute a stranger as someone who I know absolutely nothing about – the bus driver didn’t feel like such a stranger to me because I knew their occupation, and I knew they wouldn’t hurt me.