Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Smiling at Strangers

I've been in rehearsals because - tada! - I'm in a show coming up! Which is great. Which also means I've been taking the bus to the rehearsal hall because S. is working at Heritage Park again and he is using the car. Why am I not also at a typical job? That's another blog post.

This blog post is about smiling. Or strangers. Or random encounters with strangers. I'm not sure yet.

I was waiting for the bus and a man walked down the sidewalk with a huge smile on his face. That isn't necessarily strange, although it isn't often that you see someone smiling that broadly in public. Which is really sad when you think about it. But what made it odd was that he was actively seeking out eye contact with the people he met. And he was well dressed - not a homeless bum whom you could assume was hopped up on something, but a business man or some sort of professional. And most people looked away! And his smile didn't dim! I smiled back. I almost didn't. But then I did and it made me feel better.

So then I began to actively people watch. I don't think I was smiling but I was actively alert, watching, interested in the world around me. I usually car watch while I wait for the bus - you know, check out the various vehicles and wonder what it's like to drive that Jag or Beamer or Benz or beat up Oldsmobile. Now I switched my attention to the drivers. Most of whom were wearing sunglasses and either frowning or chatting on cell phones and frowning. People in the city are grumpy looking drivers. Or perhaps that's the 'I'm occupied' expression of humanity. I don't know. I continued once I got on the bus, looking down at the drivers around me.

I made eye contact with a woman who was driving a shiny grey-green car, don't remember what kind. She smiled at me, a real genuine smile! A smile that said, I see you people watching! I do that too! And I smiled back. Later I saw her join the cell phone chatting masses but for a moment she was a real person, with a real smile, someone I wouldn't trip if zombies were chasing me.

The next day I was waiting for the bus again. On my way down the street a somewhat disheveled gent asked me for a light. I don't smoke, so I don't carry a lighter. Which is what I said as I continued to walk. He kept going also. He ended up at the same bus stop. Asked me again for a light. Once again I said no. He asked someone else and then settled down at the bus stop and looked me up and down and asked if he could help me out. I never know what to do when random disheveled strangers start talking to me. I said I didn't need any help (as I said it I smiled to myself - you never know what kind of help you need until someone offers help flashed through my head) and then he asked me if I wanted to buy a bus transfer. I said I had a ticket, and as my mouth moved my heart sank as I realized I had left my book of tickets at home. And the bus was too close for me to run home, grab them, and get back in time. He offered them for a dollar. For fifty cents. I didn't have any money on me so I had to decline, even though I needed one. And then he got grumpy, asking me what kind of world was this where nobody had a light or carried any money.

I got a bit alarmed at this point. Not going to lie. I said, Sorry, I don't smoke and I don't carry cash, now will you please leave me alone.

He gave me a transfer anyway and then walked off and promptly vanished. I don't mean I saw him dematerialize, but I have no idea where he went so quickly.

I was very grateful for the transfer even though I felt like I was defrauding the system. And I mentally apologized multiple times for panicking and being rude.

I found the bus tickets in my backpack once I arrived at the rehearsal hall. I had them all along but didn't know it.

I hope he found his light.

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