Monday, November 19, 2007

the kindness of strangers

The new job requires travel, and I'm on the road, typing this from a comfortable hotel bed in a completely foreign state, one I've never visited before. The thing I hate about hotels is the air conditioning, which always is either blowing right at you at full force or turned completely off. Also my fear of bugs means I have to leave the bathroom light on (door mostly closed) so I don't sleep well. I have some definite quirks.

One of these is that I love the random encounters with people I've never met and probably will never see again. There was a flight a couple of weeks ago where I ended up next to a man who was a great and funny conversationalist. He traveled often for business and gave me a lot of funky travel tips -- like always carry Lysol to clean off the TV remote in hotel rooms. Yeah. Think about it for a second. I think I'll just read and use my computer.

I am not the kind of person who forces conversation on a plane. I usually have a good book with me, but these kind of random chats are really interesting, so if my seatmate is game and is at least somewhat interesting, I can converse with anyone on just about any topic. I guess that's how I got the job I have right now, which involves a lot of public relations. I just generally like people, for the most part.

I'm reading a beautiful book right now, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank. This book is about the way that a seemingly random fascination with a mysterious store led to a life-changing encounter with the store's owner and a link to a forgotten passion for pianos. When I glanced at the acknowledgments, I found this quote intriguing:
Please don't try to find Luc or Mathilde or any of the others; they are not waiting to be discovered...As a childhood friend once said to me, solemnly and without rancour, when I tried to impinge on his spaceman fantasy, "Go find your own astronauts!" In the same spirit, let me say to the reader, "Go find your own Luc!"
I think that a lot of us don't realize how many interesting characters are all around us, each with a story. We try to duplicate the experiences we read about or see on TV or film: We might dream of a trip to Napa after seeing Sideways or want to go to Prince Edward Island to trace the footsteps of Anne of Green Gables. But the bigger challenge, and the one that author Thad Carhart suggests to us, is to find our own stories instead. In our car-centric, suburbanized American existence, chance encounters are rarer than they probably used to be. Maybe that's why we're more scared than we used to be. I am finding that travel is a good chance to be reminded of the kindness of most strangers.


  1. How lovely! Traveling can be deadly or it can be engaging, and often meeting random people can energize your whole day. Thanks for the thoughtful reminder to find our own stories instead of just looking to replicate someone else's. Sometimes doing the one is a place to start and finding our own voice, our own story comes from there.

    Safe travels, my friend.

  2. I love travel and random encounters. Often bits of random wisdom come from people I see only once. Love this post. Hope things are going well from you.


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