On a recent trip to an unnamed country, I was standing on crowded bus and saw a woman who was seated, hand her handbag to another woman who was about to get off the bus. I thought nothing of it until I saw another woman get on the bus and nonchalantly hand two shopping bags to a young man who was sitting by the window. 10 minutes later, a young child was handed back to his mother by a woman who was seated on the bus. People were getting on the bus and handing their handbags, shopping bags or children to random strangers for safe keeping for the duration of their journey. This kind of blind trust was totally foreign for me, coming from a country where it is usual to sit next to someone for a half an hour and not even smile.
Ok sure, there are many reasons why people don’t talk to each other for many reasons. Maybe they don‘t look friendly, are busy listening to music, playing Candy Crush or occupied with their Kindle. I just find it slightly sad that in some big cities, people can have more desire to connect with someone via Twitter than a real person sitting next to them for half an hour. Because we hear of violent attacks, stabbings and verbal abuse on public transport everyday, we automatically keep ourselves to ourselves, often for fear that a simple smile will be misconstrued as a threat. Sometimes, a small step out of our comfort zones act can have results you can never imagine.
The video that went viral last week in which strangers kissed each other was interesting for many reasons. It showcased behaviour which totally goes against non-a-few-tequilas-too-many etiquette, as well as a well shot and edited video with fitting background music. The fact that the video featured models, actresses and musicians – people who for different reasons have generally less inhibitions than the average person, is irrelevant. What the video showed me was that we are all fascinated by the connection two total strangers (ok…we were led to believe that they were total strangers) can have. A connection that possibly many of us crave every day, our daily commutes being a perfect opportunity rarely taken.
I was on a short flight a couple of years ago and after offering to switch my ham sandwich for his cheese, had a great conversation with the guy sitting next to me. He was travelling to take part in an annual marathon but worked for the UN. He spoke about 5 languages and gave me some great advice about which languages are the most important to learn for communication purposes (English, Russian, Arabic, Spanish and Cantonese). I invited him to see a show I was playing in and we parted wishing each other a good weekend. Nothing more, nothing less. Maybe we never meet again. Maybe he doesn’t even remember that conversation. I do, and now able to pass on some of what he told me, maybe someone reading this will learn something from this post.
‘…people can have more desire to connect with someone via Twitter than a real person sitting next to them for half an hour’
I’m not saying that we should all unplug, talk, and give our belongings to any and everyone we happen to sit next to. A pleasant word to a stranger on a train doesn’t have to reference the 1951 Hitchcock movie of the same name. Maybe, just maybe, to have a small conversation with someone who makes you both smile can make the difference between an OK day, and a pleasant one.
And you don’t have to kiss them either…. because it really looks like this:
Peace and blessings