I’ve always been shy. People who know me now don’t believe that when they see me introduce myself to strangers at a party. “I don’t even do that,” they say, trying to convince me I’m not shy. But they don’t know I’ve worked very hard to pretend not to be. And while it is work, still, even though it comes more naturally than it did when I was 18 and thrown into a dorm room with 3 other people, I do have to admit there’s something to be said for being able to speak to strangers.
For example, I think it saved my sanity last night during one of the worst travel experiences of my life.
After waiting for the bus for a half hour in the cold, I turned to the strangers next to me and asked, “Does anyone want to share a cab to the airport?”
After sitting in the taxi for an extra 30 minutes at the airport before we could inch our way in the car to the first terminal, I ran to someone outside to ask if there was a shuttle to my terminal.
When I finally got inside the terminal 10 minutes before my flight was supposed to board and a man in the security line asked to go ahead, another guy made a snarky comment. I said, “He’s just trying to be nice,” and then, “Though all of ours are also boarding.” But not that guy’s–so he let me go ahead and wished me luck when my suitcase was held up and I was consequently forced to throw out my niece and nephew’s Christmas present (because apparently you can bring a margarine container full of dirt but not store-packaged sand onto an airplane; don’t ask).
When I somehow arrived at my gate exactly on time only to find out that of course the previous flight was late, I told the guy sitting next to me his pretzel-wrapped hot dog smelled fantastic, and we proceeded to have a conversation about Cleveland sports and how cheap real estate seemed anywhere outside NYC.
I’ve been stuck at an airport in Fiji for 4 hours before they told us the flight was postponed till the next day, with one international phone call allowed so we could tell our parents not to pick us up in America. The experience yesterday was more stressful. Yet speaking with these strangers along the way made me feel so much better.
I don’t know the names of any of the friendly strangers I met, but on the off-chance that you happen to be one of them: thank you.