Saturday, December 19, 2009


"Excuse me - you aren't planning on making any phone calls, are you?"

I looked up from my puzzle at the speaker, a well turned out older woman, her husband hovering in the background.

"No, I really have the phone out just to keep track of the time," I said, smiling. The couple turned and sat down at a small table across from mine.

Okay then, so much for the weirdness; back to my puzzle.

Vaguely aware of their conversation, I returned to trying to figure out "Roughly separated, a party means to get to Oz - 7 letters). A while later, I was staring into space, lost in thought, when a voice from the other table interrupted the process.

"Are those the New York Times crosswords?"

Honestly, what is it that makes people just talk to me? This time, it's clear I've done nothing to promote conversation. I'm minding my own business, trying to finish both puzzle and coffee so I can move on to a list of things to do on vacation.

The list never did get made. For the next hour and a half, they she we talked. The conversation flowed through a gamut of topics; I managed to interject some comments, and occasionally draw the husband in with a question or two. It turns out we know some people in common, though I'm much the same age as their children.

It is odd to me, that in an era during which we can instantly communicate with anyone, anywhere, any time through a myriad of electronic methods, people still strike up in person conversations with perfect strangers. Not just "Hello, nice to meet you, excuse me" interchanges, but comments meant to provoke more of a response, a chance to connect. In my experience (what is it that makes people talk to me?), it's not just older people who want to make that personal connection; the younger generations are just as hungry for interaction.

It was a pleasant enough way to pass some time, but I'm issuing a fair warning: the next time I go out to a coffee shop, I'll be the one with the fedora pulled low, hiding behind a foreign language newspaper, pretending not to understand English.

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