As a college graduation gift to myself, I planned a trip to Maui to visit a good friend of mine. My flight was significantly delayed so I pulled out a deck of cards and started playing solitaire. The middle aged guy sitting across from me offered to teach me a new card game. At first, I was hesitant. I grew up hearing about child abducters, rapists, terrorists attacks and scammers. I’m very much a child of the fear era and not interacting with strangers is our #1 rule. However, I knew solitaire was not going to keep my occupied for the next hour. Plus we were in the middle of the ever crowded LAX airport with TSA officers everywhere. Seeing as the guy hadn’t asked for any personal information, it was much more likely he was an equally bored traveler rather than a scammer or a skeeze. So I said okay.
I don’t remember what the game was, but I remember being pleasantly surprised by the company. We talked about our lives in general terms…his girlfriend, my job, his traveling experience, my boyfriend. He had been to Maui before so he gave me some great tips on places to visit. When our plane was finally ready to board, we said thank you and good bye. I never saw him again but I will be forever grateful to him for turning a terribly boring vacation start into one that was actually fun.
I realized that day that while being a child of the fear era has its perks (we no longer take candy from strange guys in vans) it also has a lot of negative side effects. We are afraid of almost everybody. When it comes to strangers, we don’t casually talk to them, we don’t politely tell them they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe, we don’t compliment them on thier adorable handbag and ask where they got it, and we NEVER stop to help them on the side of the road.
Of course, I don’t think we should just start picking up hitch hikers. The fact of the matter is we live in a sick world with sick people and we absolutely have to protect ourselves. I’m just saying we shouldn’t be wary of every single stranger interaction. Along with the sickos, there are also alot of good people out there. We miss out on so many opportunities by burying our heads in our phones rather than looking around and making new human connections.
Another time in an airport, my mom and I were waiting to board a plane and a young woman asked us if she could use my mom’s cell phone because hers had died. Again, the fear generation flag started waving. But my mom is the sweetest woman ever and gave the stranger her phone. The woman stayed right in front of us, made her call, thanked us profusely, and left. I talked about it with my mom afterwards and she said “You know, that woman could have picked anyone in the terminal. She probably picked us because we seemed safe. She trusted us not to hit on her or be rude or use the phone number she dialed as a way to scam her. I figured the least I could do was trust her.”