There’s a strange sense of self that arises when you find yourself in certain situations connecting to strangers you’ll likely never see again. Like in a coffee shop, where everyone is drinking the same drinks and laughing and talking or typing on their laptops.
It’s these situations where almost no words are said, where you feel more like a person. You’re around people, but you’re not with them. Still, you feel connected to them and it’s validating. Like when you and a bunch of strangers are crossing the street or when your flight gets delayed and everyone has the same disappointment.
There are several different situations when we find ourselves connecting to strangers, and we just don’t stop to think about them enough.
You’re standing next to a few people, waiting to cross the road. You’re not really in a rush, but you still always hurry. Somebody who does look like they’re in a rush runs across the street right as a car going well above the speed limit drives past, honking at the person.
You look at the stranger next to you. By the look on your faces, you both don’t want that happening to you.
There’s a car coming, but you can’t tell how far it is or how fast it’s going. Should you run it? Could you speed walk? All of a sudden, somebody walks right in between you and the stranger and makes their way across the street. You look at each other and, at the same time, make your way across the street. When you get to the other side, you briefly look at each other before going opposite ways.
Sharing a bench with a stranger.
It happened. You were sitting on a bench, and a stranger came up and asked to sit at the other end. You couldn’t say no because you’re too nice, and also, what does it matter? There’s a good foot and a half between you two, and you each mind your own business. It’s fine. You’re fine.
Then a squirrel comes up and climbs onto the bench with you. It sits right between you and this stranger. You want to freak out but you don’t want them to think you’re crazy. But what if the squirrel comes over and bites you? What then?
You look up and see the stranger look at the squirrel and then look at you. No words are said, but you both share the same expression of dreadful fear. The stranger carefully shoos the squirrel away for you. You thank them, and you each return to sitting in peaceful silence.
When your plane is delayed and everyone cries.
We’ve all been there, especially lately. Your flight is delayed again. Last time it was the weather, this time, not enough crew. Everyone sits down and sighs after the intercom finishes announcing that your flight probably won’t take off for another two hours.
You sit down next to someone on the phone talking about how they’re going to miss their connecting flight in Chicago. After they hang up, they look at you and ask “What about you? Where are you going?”
“Home to Chicago,” you reply. You both laugh a little. Neither of you is going anywhere anytime soon. You sit in silence, occasionally cracking jokes about the people getting upset and yelling at the employee at the desk.
When you finally get up to board your flight, you don’t say anything to each other. You just get on the plane and travel to your destination, never speaking to each other ever again.
But for some reason in all these situations, you feel connected to these people. They see you and you see them as more than just breathing bodies next to each other. You connect to these strangers and you all leave your little marks on each other. It’s a beautiful thing that we often take for granted.
So the next time you find yourself in a similar situation to these, take a step back and say a little thanks to the world for giving you a chance to feel connected.