I like talking to strangers. Most parents tell their kids not to; my dad marches up to them and starts a conversation. That is one trait I inherited.
On Monday I took a new bus to school for the first time. I sat next to a woman named Jackie. Jackie was really nice. It was her first time on the bus too because she was starting a new job downtown. We talked and laughed and connected on the 30 minute bus ride downtown and as we parted, I gave her directions to navigate the city streets that she was still unfamiliar with.
Monday evening I was home at the transit center where Jackie and I met and happened to see her going to her car. “Jackie,” I called out. “How was your first day of work?” I was genuinely inquisitive and thankful for this opportunity to meet her again as most of my random conversations are never resolved. They are left with questions of who are these people and what will they do with their lives? On Monday I got to ask Jackie more about her life. She gave me a summary of her day and as I turned to walk away she offered, “Hey, do you want a ride home?”
Parents tell their kids not to get in the car with strangers, but I did that on Monday too. I got in the car with Jackie and shared more of my life with her and about my day at school.
Today I waited at my bus stop downtown for the last bus home. There was a blonde girl sitting on a bench, thick black eyeliner circling her light brown eyes. Cheaply drawn tattoos of anime characters drowned her pale arms. I stared at her too long. It was awkward. She seemed sad. In my gut I felt drawn to say hello. So I did. I sat down right next to her and shook her hand, “Hi. I’m Hannah.” She looked at me strangely but answered. “Hey. I’m Ashleigh.”
Ashleigh said she wasn’t sad, but I wasn’t convinced. She said she was just fucking bored waiting for the bus. I still wasn’t convinced. Her eyeliner was smeared. She looked tired; tired of waiting; tired of life. I found out she has a tent in her squat, volunteers at Orion Center and has a great heart. She would rather stay in a bar until 2 am than take up a bed in a shelter where a minor could be sleeping.
She pulled out her beat up, outdated blackberry and asked for my number. “Text me whenever you want,” she invited. I gave my number to a stranger. That’s probably against some parenting rule too, but I didn’t care. I gave my number to girl who seemed sad today and now that I’m home, we’re texting about how we wish we could have done more this summer and when we can hang out next.
There are some strangers you shouldn’t get in the car with, and there are some you need to get in the car with. Some people need to see that the world isn’t judging them, and others need to know that they’re loved.