I’m a pretty friendly person. I can hold up my end of the conversation at parties and, if trapped in an elevator or train car, I can crack jokes or at least offer up something to talk about.
The thing is, while I’m really good at chatting when approached, I rarely go out of my way to engage strangers in conversation. I could just blame the fact that I spent the last couple of years in Manhattan, where engaging strangers in general is a risky, risky game, but the fact is, I’ve always been a little stranger shy. (I blame those McGruff videos from the first grade. Stranger danger is real, yo.)
Which is probably why I’m always more impressed than weirded out when somebody I do not know tries to strike up conversation. You KNOW how I love when someone hits on someone properly, but here I’m talking about any kind of friendly outreach.
It’s widely agreed that making friends when you’re an adult is near impossible. In school you have, well, school to throw you together, along with extracurriculars, teams, and groups. As an adult, sure, you have work, but it’s just not the same. And if the guy sitting in the cube next to you wants you to join a color guard with him, you’re concerned, not excited.
And remember all those crazies in Manhattan? How are you supposed to know who is just saying “hey” and who wants to wear you as pajamas?
For example, today I went out for lunch to a nearby burrito establishment. I was alone. There were two gentlemen in line behind me that I didn’t pay much attention to, except to notice that one of them kept looking at me every time I said something to one of the people behind the counter.
I sat down, and one of the guys sat at a table near me. The other guy finished getting his soda, then walked over to my table.
“If you’re looking for someone to have lunch with, you’re welcome to join us.”
This was the first time I looked at him. He seemed nice, around my age. He also had a ponytail.
I was slightly taken aback. First of all, did it look like I was “looking for someone to have lunch with”? I had ordered and sat down to eat. I didn’t stand at the head of the dining room staring wistfully at all the other kids who had someone at their lunch table.
Secondly, PONY. TAIL.
I was so caught off guard, I almost said something like, “Oh, um, ok!” Instead, I remembered my stranger danger rules and politely told him I was fine. (Because I was. I had not been “looking” for someone to eat with.)
He sat down, and I realized that his cohort ALSO had a ponytail. Seriously? Is this coming back? Please tell me it isn’t coming back. Even I’M not wearing a ponytail today. Clearly, I spent the rest of lunch making up stories about how these guys worked at Best Buy, but they spent their evenings playing bass and keyboard (respectively) for a WOW-themed rock group. (No one else does this? Just me? Moving on.)
The point is, sure, it seemed weird at the time, but you have to give the guy credit for reaching out to a stranger. And now I can’t stop wondering what we would have talked about. I’m guessing movies, even though they really would have wanted to discuss the plans for band practice that night. Obviously.