It turns out that your neighbor on the plane/bus/train (or the person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop) is a very, very chatty tourist. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?
In the world we live in now, everyone else is engrossed on what’s on their smart phones and tablets, ignoring the people sitting next to them, or simply tuning them out. Most often than not, I’ve had the best experiences with people who love to talk – unless they’re talking about politics or religion, then I’m out. Here are a few that have stood out:
I once sat next to a young neurologist (“It’s ‘neurologist,'” he said. “Not ‘urologist.’ A lot of people get them mixed up.”) on a flight from L.A. to NYC. At first, we were both engrossed in our books, then the in-flight magazine and finally, tired of all that, we introduced ourselves. When he learned I was a massage therapist, he told me that he, along with other neurologists, dentists and orthodontists, were currently looking into the link between migraines and TMJ syndrome, and having had orthodontic braces when one was younger. He asked my opinion about how massage could possibly help where medications often fall short, because honestly, he didn’t like prescribing all the medications he was prescribing if bodywork could take some of the edge off. We talked about other things, of course – where he lived and practiced (Detroit) and and places to visit.
Another time, I sat next to an inventor. He could have been pulling my leg completely, but he said he held the patent to this blue flame lighter and other inventions. He used to live in California, he said, but he got tired of being sued by everyone who claimed to have come up with the invention first that he ended up moving to Arizona (or was it Nevada) where if someone wanted to sue him, then they had to pay for his attorney fees as well. Since his move, the lawsuits went from 100 to 0, he said, and he could concentrate more on inventing the next big thing. He commuted between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but it didn’t bother him because the one-hour flight between both places was just about the same time it took from the Valley where he lived to Los Angeles, where he did his deals (when he was living and getting sued left and right in California).
While we didn’t exactly become best of friends from then on (the doctor did leave me his business card so I could call him should I visit Detroit), we did connect in a non-digital way, learn something new about one another, and generally had a wonderful face-to-face (not FaceTime) time.
It’s something I miss when I sit in a coffee shop and see everyone, while in the company of their friends, staring into their smart phones, “connecting” if you will with “friends.” We don’t even see the color of their eyes, the way they look at us, smile at us, really connect with us. Instead, we do it with emoticons and a lot of guessing all because we don’t see the context of the words – which then leads to a lot of misunderstandings and needless drama.
So yes, in general, I don’t mind chatty people. As long as it’s not about religion or politics, then go ahead and talk to me.
10 thoughts on “I’m Listening”
When traveling, I prefer to be alone, observing and passing unseen. I don’t like to be accosted by strangers and feel tied to a chair because I’m too polite to get up and walk away.
I totally understand that. I get that way myself and like to people-watch instead.
I’m with you 100% on this one 🙂
I too hate seeing people sitting across from each other and looking at their phones. I especially hate to see a parent texting away ignoring their child sitting with them. I will talk to almost anyone about almost anything but I too rule out religion and politics.
And religion and politics are the things that matter most in a social context, another reason why I don’t find talking to strangers interesting. It tends to be too “polite” to be worthwhile.
I guess it all depends on the company you end up with, the person you’re sitting with or across for religion or politics to become interesting. I like listening to their POV mostly, especially when it’s different from my own. You never know what you’re going to learn 🙂
Religion and politics with people we know well can be a hot topic – worse if it’s with someone you just met while waiting for a flight, bus or train. Or sitting in a coffee shop 🙂
I find that everyone has an interesting life story and most are pleased to meet someone interested in hearing it. I’ve found that cultures, societies, ethnicity, and languages don’t mar the basic virtues of humanity and there is where I find I relate to most of those who would like to stop and chat.
So true! Especially when they do like to stop and chat – some people do and some people don’t. So depending on how we feel that day, we can either stay and chat or not. But I’ve had really good experiences with people who stop and chat – especially when I’ve found myself too lost in my own little world and problems and such 🙂
People are so busy looking down into gadgets (like I am right now) that they miss the wonders outside the glare. But this too, is a wonder I’m glad you shared.
Thank you 🙂