As only I could do, I have been thinking about a comment a friend made on my interaction with strangers being very different than hers. I have been trying to figure it out since she brought it up - why do I interact the way I do?
Today, I was walking to my favorite place in Uptown – Café Too- after dropping a team of students off at a homeless shelter and minding my own business, I saw someone I remotely knew, I stopped and had a conversation and we decided to do a business lunch on Tuesday. This brought my mind back to this comment about public interaction with strangers or public interaction in general. I went into my head thinking while walking.
Not 500 feet later, at an intersection of two major streets in Uptown, an elderly woman asked me where Lawrence Ave was. I told her where it was. I happened to be walking towards there and she talked with me for two blocks about antiques and CTA bus bunching.
The whole time I am laughing on the inside because I had been thinking of my public interaction and then it happened. So here is what I think about the interaction:
1. I get asked directions a lot. No matter if I have 30 people following me or not – I get asked by myself a lot. When Jim is with me, he laughs and says, “You asked the right person.” So when asked directions, I feel like I have a duty to help people get where they need to be. In the last week or so, I have walked people to Union Station, given directions to tourists pulling out a map in front of a train station, and given several directions from memory. It provides an opportunity to have something to talk about.
2. However, the real question is why do I get asked? What is it about me that I get asked which then draws me into the public interactions? I don’t know for sure – but I made a choice awhile ago to look at people as they pass me on the sidewalk I try to look people in the eye, and I usually look like I know where I am going. One interesting thing is that I am not usually smiling as my natural in thought look is not a smile. I don’t think I dread public interactions and it usually makes a good story – like today’s event.
I had another interaction with a woman at the homeless shelter later. She came up to me and started talking to me as if I had asked her a question. She drew me in and she was fun talking to her too.