Thursday, February 2, 2012

Talking to Strangers

Personality-wise, I'm pretty reserved most of the time, but I actually love talking to strangers. Not in a creepy way, but just small talk in waiting rooms, elevators, lines, that sort of thing. I think I get it from my mom, who can make conversation with anyone - doormen, cab drivers, cleaning ladies, you name it. While I'm not quite as chatty as she is, I do still enjoy meeting people in unexpected places. It's actually something I really like about myself and am really proud of, since I'm normally pretty quiet and withdrawn.

So this morning, I had to take my car in for an emissions inspection and oil change, and spent two hours sitting in Jiffy Lube. I met a young black guy in his late twenties/early thirties who started telling me about his job, his kids, his friends, etc. It was fascinating. He had three kids from age eight to eleven, their mom was "gone," he moved to this city to be closer to his mom and sister so they could help out, he had been saving for his kids' college educations since they were born, he regularly made an eighteen-hour drive to see his brother who lived on a Navy base, he wanted to join the Navy too but didn't think it paid enough for him to support his kids so he ended up in construction instead, and he had "a fucking ball" when he went to Tijuana with his friends last year. Then he gave me some advice on how to avoid getting ripped off by mechanics, and offered to change my spark plugs if I ever needed.

Not exactly the kind of guy I would normally spend two hours talking to, but entertaining. And eye-opening, in a lot of ways. Experiences like these never fail to remind me how small my world can be sometimes, when all I worry about is myself and my weight and food and school. It also proves how artificial a lot of my problems really are, like how many calories were in that banana? or will the walk to campus burn off the milk in my coffee? or why do my jeans feel tighter in the butt than they did yesterday? Like really, why do I care?

When talking to strangers in a waiting room or on the street or in a store, I can be someone normal, no assumptions or expectations, just a snapshot of a person. Strangers have no clue that I'm in therapy twice a week, that I need a registered dietician to tell me what to eat, that I track my weight and calories obsessively, that I doubt myself in everything I do. Strangers just see a youngish girl, brown hair, jeans, kind of quiet but polite, easy to smile, happy to chat, nothing more.

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