I often talk to strangers. Or rather strangers often talk to me. I think I must have a quality that makes me seem accessible. That’s my best guess. Well, also that I am responsive. I do not walk around staring at the dirt, sending off a vibe that says “Leave me the hell alone” unless I am sick or really tired, or dealing with a personal crisis; those are the main conditions when I TRY to send off that vibe, but even then, I’m not always successful.
I generally don’t mind to talk to strangers and sometimes I enjoy it, but I do have limits and conditions. If a stranger engages me in conversation, there are a couple buttons they can push that will make me pull back and shut it down. Any kind of racist commentary, particularly with the assumption that I agree with it (after all why wouldn’t I? I’m a very fair-skinned, blue-eyed, blonde woman, so I must be on their “team”, grrrr). Somebody trying to sell something to me, especially if they initially try to make it seem like they’re just making conversation, definitely irritates me. I’ve learned to make short work of hucksters and shysters. Probably the last big turn-off is when the other person isn’t remotely interested in what I have to say, all the more so when they’ve asked me a question but don’t listen to the answer. Or better (worse) yet, when they argue with the response I offer. I’m going to spend my time arguing with a stranger who’s unsatisfied with my answer? Oh, I think not!
Every now and again I’ll have an interesting encounter like I did today. I was out and about in my town when two older gentlemen who (I learned) were visiting the area, struck up a conversation with me. The younger of the two was a talker and quite congenial. The other however, who said almost nothing, cut a more striking figure. He looked like somebody sent from Central Casting (is there still such a thing as Central Casting? Was there ever?). He was lean, about 5‘9″, straight-postured and carrying a walking stick, with a full white beard, a fluorescent orange cap (one I didn’t immediately realize must be a hunter’s cap – don’t see too many of those in the suburbs where I live outside a big U.S. city), and very bright, alert blue eyes behind glasses. He looked like the wise old guy character actor in a movie who’d be sitting in front of a gas station, whiling away the hours.
We had a friendly chat and as I noted, the younger of the pair, who certainly would qualify for senior discounts, did most of the talking. I tried to look over at the other man too when I spoke so he’d be included. (It always feels odd to me when I’m talking to a person and there’s another person present who has to stand by like a block of wood; I want to at least acknowledge them.)
They continued on their way but awhile later came back by where I was. This time, both men spoke – I guess the older fellow had decided I was all right, or he just takes a little more time to suss things out. And not to be mean but getting a word in with his chatty comrade there wasn’t going to be easy. Just before they walked away the second, final time, the older man approached me and took something out his wallet, saying, “Well, let me give you this…” I was curious, thinking he’d maybe give me a fast-food discount coupon he didn’t have use for or something like that as a gesture of thanks for my taking time to talk with them. I can be a charming conversationalist after all.
Here’s what he handed to me (with personal details hidden):
I was quite delighted. As I said, I live outside a big city and people who-take-themselves-very-seriously foist business cards on others rather incessantly. (I handed back the last business card someone tried to give me for their services, services I’d expressed no interest in.) But this one? I’ve never seen one like it. People aren’t like that around here. First thing I did once home was Google the description of the services offered. I really did NOT want to find it; I wanted it to be original. Google coughed nothing up I am very happy to say. My favorite part is the office hours, ha! I didn’t notice right away that the back of the card had printing on it as well: