Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stranger Danger Is a Myth

Since my Unemployment Adventure began, I've been spending a lot of time at Starbucks. And the library. I'm trying to rotate between the two so I don't burn out on either; so far, I've been successful in rotating, but not necessarily in preventing burnout. Starbucks has pumpkin scones, so it usually wins.

Here's the problem: Because I have a whopping total of, like, two friends in town - & because they have, you know, jobs & lives & stuff - I find myself without anyone to talk to the majority of the time. The majority of my face-to-face interactions are with my mom & with strangers who frequent (& are employed by) places I frequent.

So I find myself thriving on these few-sentences-long chats with people I don't & will never know. Conversations like, "Will you watch my stuff while I run to the bathroom?" that, if I'm lucky, turn into a few lines of good-humored banter about trusting strangers to keep me safe from other strangers. Conversations with a middle-aged Sears employee about the horrors of turtlenecks & the many treasures to be found on jewelry sales rack & whether coral is an acceptable color palette for anything but necklaces. Conversations with the couple in line of front of me at WalMart who lets me cut them so I don't have to wait 15 minutes while they pay for their meth lab supplies when all I need to buy is contact solution & a Lean Cuisine.

I'm turning into my grandmother, who talks to every stranger she meets. I am one of those people. It's not new, of course; I've always done it, even in the city, where people sometimes thought I was crazy or obnoxious or an escaped mental patient for daring to strike up chats with folks I don't know. I even have a blog tag devoted to "conversations with strangers." And it suddenly occurs to me: This is, without a doubt, the most suburban thing about me. When paired with also being the loneliest thing about me, I'm a conversational time bomb just waiting to explode. No stranger is safe.
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