Talk to Strangers

How many times have we all been admonished not to talk to strangers? On countless occasions, I’m sure.

While this advice surely has its practicality, it also limits that human contact which is so integral to living and learning. Should we talk to every random person we happen to encounter on the street? No, of course not. But anyone with even a hint of decent judgement should be able to ascertain the difference.  

Example: Just a few weeks ago, while visiting Saratoga Springs, we happened to strike up a conversation with one of the racetrack employees, an ordinary enough looking woman stationed behind one of the many “May I Help You?” kiosks. Over the course of some relatively unrelated small talk, she came to reveal that this was her first summer working there, as she used to make her living as a member of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s press corps. For eight years, she was a Washington D.C. insider, rubbing elbows with all sorts of prominent senators, representatives…and Helen Thomas!  

Sensing our incredulity, she then produced a photo album laden with pictures of her storied past, explaining that she had some co-workers who had seemed skeptical of her history. From D.C. to Saratoga… What a fascinating life this woman had lead, and yet who would have ever known had we not stopped to ask her a question? You just never know who’s right in front of you.

Of course, being on vacation and, therefore, in “vacation mode” tends to lend itself to more relaxed conversations and a general lowering of inhibitions. Or perhaps we just naturally assume that all “out-of-towners” are friendly (which they are for the most part).  

However, I have it on good authority that there may be just as many (possibly more) fascinating characters living right here among us, here on Long Island…and maybe a couple in New York City.  (Just a couple.) Everyone has a story to tell, if you only care to listen. But how often do we give them that chance?  

Maybe if we all learn to be just a little more tolerant and open-minded when it comes to strangers, we may discover a whole new world, with a whole new set of people previously unknown to us. And the best part is, you probably don’t even have to travel far to find them.


{Published: September 17th, 2008}

Jamie Lynn RyanComment