I Talk to Strangers: Here, There, and Everywhere

I Talk to Strangers: Here, There, and Everywhere

by Carole Chandler


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452567013
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 01/18/2013
Pages: 282
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.59(d)

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I Talk To Strangers

(here, there, and everywhere)

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2013 Carole Chandler
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4525-6701-3

Chapter One

It was a bumper day for talking to strangers, just like the day before and the day before that and the day before that. It seems that every day is special, every day is a new adventure, every day is fun. I live in a busy vibrant area of south west London and have learned to accept that talking to strangers is something that I do. I have no need to encourage the conversations and I continue to be amused by people's willingness to chat. Sit back, relax and join me in a few memories of when I talked to strangers and they talked to me.

I feel like beginning with an encounter about a lady that I met at a bus stop in London. I noticed her beforehand as I was walking along the road. Way ahead of me, way down the road, her hair caught my attention. Swaying with a life of its own, her golden, shoulder length, straight hair moved like a piece of satin floating in the breeze. I was a long way behind and as I enjoyed watching her hair, I remembered a couple of times when I have seen beautiful hair in the street and followed the urge to express my delight to the owner. Thankfully, they have never seemed to mind and I am always grateful for it because it is not nearly so much fun paying compliments that are not well received. It is like offering a gift and having it rejected.

Anyway, the wafting satin crossed the road ahead of me and disappeared out of view, so I turned my attention to something else. When I arrived at the bus stop, there was the hair again. Now she was standing next to me and I felt the urge to say something. I knew that I did not have to. I could have just as easily kept my thoughts to myself. The urge got the better of me, as I concluded that I may never see her again and there was nothing to lose.

Standing beside her I said, "Excuse me." She continued to look ahead, no response, no response at all. I tried again, "Excuse me." With the second attempt, she glanced towards me, smiled, flicked her hair back and removed her earphones.

"Oh sorry, I didn't hear you with my earphones in, were you talking to me?"

Well that explained her previous lack of response. I was overjoyed to see that she was happy to stop her listening and interact with me.

"I'm sorry to interrupt you but I just wanted to say that I noticed your beautiful hair from way down the road."

"Oh really, thank you. I've just straightened it otherwise it looks terrible."

"Surely not, well it looks gorgeous today. It really caught my attention as it floated from side to side when you walked." She thanked me again so I continued,

"It looks like satin swaying in the breeze and even on a cloudy day like today, with no sun, your hair was shining."

"Oh, it's so kind of you to say that, you're so sweet."

"I'm just inspired to say what I feel."

I had said all I wanted to say and expected her to return to her listening but no. She continued by telling me how she washes and straightens her hair daily, even though it is quite a commitment but she feels it is necessary because she prefers that way. I gently offered the option of leaving it natural and she agreed that if she did, she would probably get used to it. On occasions when she has previously grown tired of the morning routine, she tried to get used to the curls and the frizz but never felt entirely happy.

The stop is served by two routes and without knowing where I was going, she told me that we had just missed one but she did not know about the other. I told her that I had walked from about four stops away and had not seen one, so felt confident that it would arrive soon. This of course added to my amusement because I could have easily waited for a bus at any of the earlier stops, thus saving myself the walk, or indeed I might have walked all the way which is what I usually do. Either way I would have missed out on the fun of our conversation.

By that point I guessed our chat was at an end and once again I fully expected her to return to her earphones. I was wrong.

"I'm all out of breath because I've got a deviated septum and it makes it hard for me to breathe. I'm due to have an operation so hopefully I won't get so breathless." Though unexpected, it was nice of her to share this information with me. Her nose looked perfect, she did not look like an amateur or professional boxer, or indeed someone who might have been involved in a pub brawl, so with vague interest I asked,

"How come it's a problem now, hasn't it always been like it?"

"No, not really, I've had two operations but it's not brilliant. The hospital has agreed to do it again but can't guarantee it will be successful. It's really a problem when I walk quickly and I like walking because it feels so good."

I agreed with her that walking is great exercise and suggested that she might perhaps try walking slower but she said that then it feels like she is not really doing anything. When I said that walking is beneficial at any speed, she laughed and pointed out that had she been walking slower that morning, then her hair would not have moved the same way. I followed up with the realisation that her hair would have indeed looked different, then a random stranger would not have stopped to talk to her at the bus stop and we would not have been enjoying our conversation.

She added that she also had breathing difficulties because she was just getting over a cold. With that she stepped back and said,

"Don't worry, I won't give it to you."

In turn, I told her not to worry because I would not catch it anyway. I used to catch colds all the time but not anymore.

"Oh you're lucky."

"It's not luck. I have changed my life to make it so."

"What did you do? Was it food, did you start eating the right foods?"

I told her that I have always eaten pretty well, so do not really concentrate on it. When she asked again, I confessed that the main thing I did was reduce my stress.

"Really? Was that what you did?"

"Well yes, stress reduces your ability to fight off infections, it leaves you open to catching things."

When she said that she thought I might be right, I felt inclined to say not 'might' but decided to let it go. I shared with her that I used to have regular chest infections a few times a year. They were of great severity reducing my ability to function and live my life comfortably. This was my normal until a few years ago. Now not even a sniffle.

She said, "I suppose people do have stress but I don't have any, I don't worry about money, I'm fine."

Interesting that she chose to say that, who mentioned money? I have learned to take little notice of people who claim to be free of stress when their physical expression indicates otherwise. I remember a client who was emotional and seemingly close to tears, insisting he had no stress in his life and volunteered to tell me that his mother had recently died and he was daily visiting his best friend who was terminally ill in hospital. No stress? Really?

The bus stop lady continued, "Sometimes I think I might not have enough to pay a bill or a credit card, or I might be concerned about paying off my loan, or not have enough to pay my rent or something like that."

"You said you don't worry about money but those are all financial concerns."

She continued, "And I'm unemployed at the moment so that doesn't help."

"That's another stressor."

"Oh, I've just been diagnosed with arthritis, so that doesn't help."

"That's another stressor."

"Then there's my hair. I have to get up really early to straighten it every day."

"That's another stressor."

Woah! Not a bad list for someone with no stress. No wonder she had a cold. She thought that perhaps I was right to mention the link and had remembered reading something about that somewhere. She had given me a lot of information in a short space of time. I should not have been surprised, I have experienced this before. I offered my perspective that she seemed to be experiencing a lot to occupy her attention and perhaps stress was a contributory factor to her 'catching' a cold. I pointed out that thoughts about her bills, such as if and how they will be paid, is worrying about money. She reflected and agreed. I felt no need to say any more. I felt no need to hear any more. She had made the connection herself.

It may seem that we were stranded at this bus stop for hours but really no, we were there just a few minutes. The bus came. As I boarded, the handsome smiling face of the driver was a momentary distraction.

As lively and as lovely as it was, I had no expectation of continuing my conversation with the silken haired lady on the bus. The bus was busy, I chose a place to stand, and she chose to stand beside me. I did not expect her to, it was nice that she did but I did not mind either way. We talked about hair again, her hair, my hair, her friend's hair, the cost of hairdressers and the frequency of treatments. We talked and laughed. Our journey was most entertaining. I enjoyed her company and she clearly enjoyed mine as when we arrived at her stop, she was sad to leave. How lovely to share a fond farewell with an acquaintance of such short duration. Life is sweet.

* * *

There is something about travelling by bus that seems to lend itself so well to meeting people. I have a plethora of experiences involving this mode of transport. So many that I have decided to devote them to a separate book. For now, I shall continue with non-bus related tales, except for the one or two which might creep in here because I cannot wait to share them.

I hopped off the bus which conveniently stops right beside the post office and is just a few doors away from where I see my clients for energy balancing treatments. It was like so many post offices at lunchtime, busy. I had no idea of the exact time, I rarely do. I was due at work but had given myself plenty of time from leaving home, so felt no concerns about joining the queue for the post office counter at the back of the shop.

I happily looked around with the intention of finding something to feel good about, something to keep me 'in the moment', something on which to focus my thoughts, something to appreciate. I heard a voice behind me,

"One, two, three, four, five, six." I turned and saw a sweet little lady standing behind me. I tried to ignore her evident appearance of agitation, as she turned towards the front of the shop and began again, "One, two, three, four, five, six." She looked back and me, I smiled, she told me she was counting the number of people in each queue and trying to decide which might be quicker. She even stood on the bottom shelf beside us to get a better view over our heads.

Well, I could have sympathised because I used to do exactly what she was doing. You know how it is, when trying to minimise waiting time by counting queues in post offices and supermarkets. It is usually a fruitless activity. How many times have we chosen the shorter queue, only to be thwarted by an unexpected interruption like customer queries, price checks or management intervention? Thankfully, the whole queue mentality has changed for me since learning the value of changing my perspective. Now I just stand somewhere, expect all to be well, know that all will be well and understand that we will all be attended to in good time.

So there I was with this delightful lady who was clearly not altogether comfortable with her place in the shop. She openly considered her options, I listened. She wondered whether the six people before her, might move quicker than the six people in the other queue, by the counter at the front of the shop. She asked me what I thought. I resisted the temptation to say that I did not mind either way and simply said that I thought she was in the right place exactly where she was.

I was happy with my response. I felt comfortable with my way of thinking. I suspect that my words were not what she wanted to hear. She looked at me quizzically and asked if I knew of any other post offices locally. Well, now she was just being daft. I mean the whole two queues debate was bad enough but to consider going somewhere else could hardly be a sensible option. It may have been a good move if she could relocate herself with a happy heart and a content disposition but from her place of worry and frustration she would be unlikely to find herself in an improved situation.

I told her where the nearest alternative office was but gently pointed out that it may well have a queue of its own of equal length or longer, not to mention the time it would take to walk to the other side of town. Feeling calm, I looked at her and with a smile said,

"You're fine here, we'll be served soon enough."

She attempted to open a discussion about the demise of the nation's post offices, the closure of facilities, the follies of the government and sadness of job losses. I did not feel inclined to join her, partly because I do not agree and partly because I am not bothered enough about how many there are around the country. The one I was in at that moment was just fine.

The queue moved a little. We found ourselves standing by shelves of greeting cards with beautiful photographs of baby animals. My companion continued to fragment her attention so I said,

"Look, the queue is moving, let's just enjoy the photos of the cute animals, look at the kittens and puppies." The cards were working for me, the animals were so cute and the quality of photography seemed too good for greetings cards, from what I could see at first glance. She looked at the selection and grunted,

"Do you like cats?" My response was easy,

"What's not to like, they are so cute." She said she preferred dogs, so I added, "Okay, there are puppies, foxes and penguins." Mentioning the penguins seemed to be a winner and distracted her for long enough for her to agree, that the one in the picture was cute. Then she said,

"They smell though, I saw some in South Africa." Ouch! For a moment there we were so close. She released her negative thoughts for an instant to acknowledge the cuteness of the baby penguin but for some reason chose to focus her attention on the smell, when we were looking at photographs, which had no smell included. Oh well, I guess it was up to her. Anyway, I told her that I was not aware that penguins lived in South Africa. I had visited a colony in Argentina many years ago and indeed they did smell but you do not get a sense of that when you see them on television or at the movies.

She had not seen 'Happy Feet' which was a pity because I am a huge fan and we could have talked about Mumble, Gloria, Eric, Ramone and his amigos for long enough to keep our mind off our waiting time. We chatted briefly about the astonishing filmography of 'March of the Penguins' then she started flitting her attention around the shop again.

Now then, of course I did not have to bother with her. Of course I could have simply ignored her. Of course I could have maintained my own focus and left her to her own distractions. Perhaps she was happy being anxious. Perhaps she was content in her agitation. I know that her inner workings of her mind are none of my business. Yet she chose to include me,

"Oh this is taking a long time, I might go over there." Again she asked me whether I thought that she should move. At the risk of repeating myself I said,

"The queue is moving, we will be served soon, just look at the cute animals, just enjoy them for the moment." There was that quizzical look again.

"I'm thinking about what I have to do back at work."

"What? While you're here, why do that to yourself? Put your attention back on the cute animals."

She tilted her head while looking at me and said, "You're very focused are you?"

My response was easy, "I have to be." I considered adding 'if I am to be joyful' but I decided against it. Well, for that moment anyway.

She said, "It must be genetic." Well over the years I have learned to ignore people's perceptions and misinterpretations of me but I was not in the frame of mind to let that one go, oh no.

"It is definitely not genetic. I have changed my life in many ways and made the conscious decision to focus."

"You did it consciously?"

"Yes, oh yes. If my genes had anything to do with it, I would not be here now and we would certainly not be having this conversation." She continued with the subject of genetics and said a few things about parenting, how they were from a different age group (of course) and how they held a different philosophy for life. She was in danger of dragging herself down a different, not so happy path again, so I said,

"They did their best, let it go."

She looked at me, paused, and smiled, "You're so calm".

I replied, "It's what I do."

Time had moved on. We were at the front and next to be served, so before we parted company I said,

"There you are, bet you're glad you didn't run off now, we're at the front of the queue already."

It was another interesting interaction, one which I will never know the effects of but I have no doubt that I have learned something from her.


Excerpted from I Talk To Strangers by CAROLE CHANDLER Copyright © 2013 by Carole Chandler. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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