Metatalktail Hour: Stranger Things December 8, 2018 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Good Saturday evening, MetaFilter – Euro Time Shift Edition! I'm filling in for Eyebrows to pose a topic suggested by holborne, who asks, "What are some memorable or funny (or both) interactions you've had with [non-threatening] strangers in public? (I thought of it mostly because I've had kind of adorable interactions with guys who handed me their newspapers on public transport after they caught me reading over their shoulders, although since no one really reads newspapers anymore that makes me old.)"

Tell us your tales of memorable ships in the night, kindness of strangers, people are funny creatures, etc., and as always, this is a conversation starter, not a conversation limiter. We'd love to hear everything that's up with you! (Except politics.) And if you have suggestions for future topics, hit us up!
posted by taz to MetaFilter-Related at 7:35 AM (175 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

I was with my partner on a recent trip to W. Virginia and we ran into this older gentleman at the grocery store. He was active in the local reservation nearby (Blackfoot, though I'm not absolutely certain), he was a part of the community and we somehow got to talking about the environment and farming and gathering locally. I cannot really recall how it even started, I think he just said something to us and we smiled and a half hour later we're still standing in the frozen food isle having this great conversation. We didn't want it to end but we had to walk away at some point.

Only on our drive back to the cabin did we realize that we hadn't asked him his name. It was this totally random experience but it has stayed with me and I don't think I'll ever forget the beads he was wearing, the smile he gave and his gentle laugh. He was just a very kind man who wanted to talk.
posted by Fizz at 8:38 AM on December 8, 2018 [18 favorites]


Christkindlmart in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is absolutely packed in the weekends before Christmas, and everyone is bumping into each other, and saying "Excuse me," and trying to make their way through the crowd. But the vibe is cheerful, and people make way, even in the smallest booths. I am not gifted with height, and so often find myself trying to make way through a group of tall people, especially if I'm trying to get a closer look at an object. Last year, I was trapped in a little stall, and was attempting to make way to the back of the area. The proprietor, a large and broad man with a pronounced Russian accent, was trying to get to the front, and we found ourselves doing the dance of strangers: facing each other and moving together from foot to foot to foot. I held up my arms and smiled, and said "Shall we dance?" And we did, just a few seconds of a tight waltz and a turn that left both of us deposited a little closer to our goals. "Thank you, little friend!" he called, and we went our own ways. I don't dance with strange men, but this brief encounter, which I still smile about, was decidedly in the happy spirit of the holidays.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:44 AM on December 8, 2018 [57 favorites]


A week before Thanksgiving I was grocery shopping and I was checking out some apples when I heard an older lady tell her husband, "Oh! I need some celery!" and I leaned over and said "Thank you! My mom asked me to get her some celery and I'd forgotten until you mentioned it!"

And then earlier this week I needed to get some cat litter for emergency winter traction. There was an older gentleman doing the same and he told me that his son had asked him to pick some up and that he didn't know why because they have a 4wd Subaru with a lift kit, studded tires, and a winch. I jokingly said that a winch was just what I needed, because my truck was currently in a ditch after spinning out that morning. He offered to come help me out, but then said that the Subaru would probably end up in the ditch as well -- but he had a Ford F350 at his house AN HOUR AWAY and could go get it if I needed! I thanked him profusely and said that we had AAA so they were going to pull it out.

Small town living can be fun.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:54 AM on December 8, 2018 [15 favorites]


I always used to be a quiet and sometimes spooky person who was often a little out of sorts "in public" because things are just a little too random for me and conversations were weird. I'm not sure if it's getting older or being in a place more my speed (all of Vermont) or what, but now I am a person who talks to strangers and often gets something useful out of it. I was on a mailing list with Kio Stark who did a TED talk about how to talk to strangers, and I have a friend who works for NPR where part of what he does for reporting is talking to strangers basically every day. And I'd quietly watch and learn.

I have a plan, to visit all the libraries in Vermont. And part of this, what counts as a visit, is going inside. Where there is always a person. I used to skulk around the edges "JUST LOOKING THANKS" and now I've started to look forward to saying hello, to talking to people as part of the visit. Because, to be honest, part of what was making my interactions with strangers weird was me being a weirdo. Small talk is normal for most people. And it's okay if it's not normal for me, but social skills can be learned. And so now I'm like "Yeah hi hey I am visiting all the libraries in Vermont. This place is beautiful (they are always beautiful) can you tell me a little bit about it?"

The last stranger conversation I remember was in Jericho where I met a chatty old timer (who, if I am honest, the librarian may have been getting tired of talking to) whose father had grown up in the Northeast Kingdom and then gone to school in my town. He had later become part of the early police force that turned into the VT State Police (which has only existed since 1947). We swapped stories about early Randolph and what that part of the state had been like when HE was a boy. It was a great 20 minutes where I learned more about my state and town and when I politely excused myself (part of getting better at small talk is knowing when to say when, if the other person doesn't or can't or won't) I just felt better about my whole day. It doesn't always go like that, but it does more often than not.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:58 AM on December 8, 2018 [50 favorites]


When I was an intern in the Milwaukee Public Museum, I helped show a group of children around. There is (or was) a dark room with a T-rex looming over an eviscerated creature, with roars and lightning effects. One of the little girls pressed in close to me and grabbed my hand. "You smell like my mom," she said. I could have cried.

(I have always assumed that this was a nice smell, but I suppose I have no proof.)
posted by Countess Elena at 9:34 AM on December 8, 2018 [28 favorites]


I had a strange meeting recently. Most afternoons I go to meet my daughter at her school bus stop (occasionally my spouse goes instead). On Wednesday my mom was visiting and wanted to walk with me to the stop. So we're standing around chatting and a car pulls up across the street from us. When she rolls down her window, I assume she's lost, since it's 40 degrees. She is remarkably perky, though, and instead of asking where the dog park is or what street goes through to the ferry (common questions here) she launches into an explanation about how her best friend is turning forty and she was wondering if she could take a video of us wishing K a happy birthday. My mom looks pretty wary, even by the time she finishes, but I am all, sure why not and Mom agrees to be in one with me. So there's a six second or so video out there of us and also two more videos of a couple who walked down the street just as she finished ours. The woman also mentioned how she was embarrassing her daughter (who was in the passenger seat throughout) and I have to wonder if she had to be there to witness her mom getting all 40 of the videos for Kris's 40th birthday. (And Kris, if you read this, hopefully I'm not ruining the surprise, and happy birthday.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:36 AM on December 8, 2018 [13 favorites]


A few months ago, a woman on the bus asked if I could use my cell phone to tell Cancer she was coming and bringing him pizza since he agreed she could bring pizza to cover the money she owed him.

I am pretty sure I called her drug dealer for her.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:50 AM on December 8, 2018 [15 favorites]


Things I Have Learned From Strangers While Riding Public Transit, An Incomplete Compendium:

- the entire plotline of Incredibles 2 (courtesy of a very enthusiastic eight-year-old girl)
- how to make "the best" prank videos on YouTube (courtesy of same eight-year-old)
- how to make meth in a washing machine
- that it is a pretty bad idea to make meth in a washing machine
- especially if it's not your own personal washing machine that belongs to you, but actually your roommate's (and particularly especially if the place is a rental -- no one is getting *that* security deposit back)
- that I have "a jaguar spirit"
- that "jaguars are associated with Death"
- that sometimes strangers will want to ask you "what is your own personal vision of the nature and finality of Death?" at 8am on a random Tuesday while you're headed to work but may *also* offer you a very tasty homebaked vegan muffin
- that it's never, never a good idea to scroll through your romantic partner's texts, because you probably won't like what you find there
- that the people around me have infinitely complicated and rich lives, often with plotlines that seem ripped out of Mountain Goats song lyrics
- that a lot of people just really need someone to talk to
- that I evidently have the sort of countenance that makes people want to share their lives (and also muffins, for which I am grateful)
posted by halation at 9:53 AM on December 8, 2018 [43 favorites]


Mardi Gras season, New Orleans, many years ago, I was walking down a street in the French Quarter amid all the revelry when a young woman strolling with a group of friends comes running up to me and hugs me, and tells me that she's SO HAPPY TO SEE ME OMG and I TOTALLY CHANGED HER LIFE and THANKS me SO MUCH for persuasive advice I gave her about going back to school and pursuing her dream of SOMETHING and it was the BEST THING SHE EVER DID and I had been SO RIGHT and THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. So, of course, I hugged her back and said I was so glad and I was so happy for her and delighted to hear this news. And then we parted ways to continue our own frolics.

But. I don't know if a) she confused me with someone else, or b) I totally gave her all that advice (because this is something I would absolutely do, even with someone I hardly knew if it seemed like they needed that kind of help in the moment, and it's also something I would likely completely forget after a while – I forget all the things, seriously; I forget my own birthday), or c) it was just a random goof to see what complete strangers would do in that situation. Anyway, it made me smile.
posted by taz (staff) at 9:57 AM on December 8, 2018 [30 favorites]


I can't think of anything out of the ordinary that happened recently, so I'll go with something from the past.

We lived in Munich in 1999. Our son had just turned two, and he was a cherubic, always smiling little guy. Just the cutest. Whenever we were out and about with him, little old German ladies would give him candy. Every. Single. Time. More than one in an outing, inevitably. They'd give him a piece of candy, ruffle his hair, gently touch his little face, and give us a big, happy smile. We taught him how to say "Danke" whenever that happened and that would make them smile even bigger, and sometimes they'd try to strike up a conversation. Sometimes I could keep up but more often than not, I'd end up having to apologize for my poor German skills. They'd just pat my arm and continue on their way.

It's one of my favorite memories of Munich.
posted by cooker girl at 10:02 AM on December 8, 2018 [19 favorites]


I went to conservatory in Appleton, Wisconsin, and we had some truly spectacular (not in a good way) winter weather my Freshman year. One day I'm trudging across campus through driving snow and more than a foot of accumulation. I can barely see, the wind is blowing so hard. Suddenly I'm stopped by a television news crew asking if they can film me. Sure. Why not? They ask me to hold up my index fingers on either side of my face. Okay. I assume this has something to do with calibrating their equipment or framing the shot or whatever, so I hold up my fingers while they point the camera at me, and wait for them to do whatever they need to do before they interview me. Around ten seconds elapse, after which they just thank me and walk away. "That was weird," I think, and resume my trudge to the practice rooms. The next day: "Hey! I saw you on Channel 11 News last night! You had absolutely no expression on your face whatsoever!" I had no idea that Channel 11 was a local station, or that filming people holding up "11 fingers" was a thing they did.
posted by slkinsey at 10:24 AM on December 8, 2018 [19 favorites]


This isn't funny, but it will stick with me: I had the privilege of seeing Mike Shinoda this fall on his Post Traumatic tour stop in Raleigh, and the crowd was the nicest concert crowd1 ever. We were all singing along and bawling and smiling at each other and occasionally exchanging comments about how we hadn't expected him to play this song or about how we were having the best (sniff) time. We go see a lot of live music, and it was just really, really nice to be in a nice concert crowd.

1. Until the house lights came up at the end and a couple of drunk girls started swinging on each other, but there's always someone... heck, we saw a guy windmilling on someone drunk at the Doobie Brothers, FFS.
posted by joycehealy at 10:37 AM on December 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


This was just such a small moment but it was so lovely and is so vivid in my memory. One summer I was walking my dog along a busy street. I was so in love with him and the beautiful day and suffused with happiness. He was trotting along briskly when a bicycle overtook us from behind and he gave a sassy little bark at it as it passed, and just at that moment, a cop cruised by coming the other way with his window down, and saw the little bark, and made eye contact with me and laughed. Just a little shared moment of pleasure in my perfect boy.
posted by HotToddy at 10:39 AM on December 8, 2018 [29 favorites]


Probably the strangest encounter I had with strangers was a couple of years ago. I was driving down my street, almost to my house, when two little kids in the road waved for me to stop. They were young. Like, too young to be wandering around a neighborhood without an adult. There was a little boy and a slightly older sister.

Again, there were no adults in sight and I am a grown man in a car so I felt weird stopping to talk to these kids, but maybe they were in trouble, or maybe the adult they were with got hurt, and I mean, I'm not going to just drive by some kids who need to talk to me.

I rolled down my window and the young boy approached and said "Have you seen my dog?"

I had never seen these kids before and I certainly didn't know what their dog looked like, but I hadn't seen any dogs.

"No. I haven't seen any dogs."

"Are you sure? Can I check under your tire to make sure you didn't run him over?"

With that he bent down in front of my car where I couldn't see him. I quickly shifted into park and assured him I had not run over any dogs today.

"I just want to make sure he's not under your tire!"

"There are no dogs under my tire. I promise you."

With that, the little boy stood up, gave me a look of absolute terror on his face and said, I shit you not:

"YOU BETTER NOT HAVE RUN HIM OVER OR I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN!"

"Um... ok. I hope you find your dog."

I then turned into my driveway, the little kid glaring at me the entire time.

I really hope they found their dog but I kind of suspect maybe there was no dog at all. I have not seen either of these kids since so perhaps the whole thing was a fever dream.
posted by bondcliff at 10:55 AM on December 8, 2018 [14 favorites]


Hah, maybe it's something about New Orleans. I was at a bar on Frenchman Street about two years ago with my friend Noah (who was very drunk and a little stumbly) and this man started making very intense eye contact with me, and then yelled from across the bar, "Vanessa!!!!! It's so good to see you!!!!!" while waving wildly. I was very confused, looked behind me to see if he was making eye contact with someone behind me, but he was not. He ended up coming over to me and Noah with a few other guys, and was like "Vanessa! Don't you remember me from that business conference in Los Angeles?" and I was completely dumbfounded. I told him I was not Vanessa, and I had no idea who he was, and had never been in Los Angeles, and then he kind of whispered, "I thought that guy was maybe bothering you and wanted to give you an out if you need it!" It was very sweet.

Anyways, I explained the situation, and it turned out they were bachelor partying, so we bought them some drinks and then everyone moved on their merry way, but it was nice that someone had their eyes out for me.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:56 AM on December 8, 2018 [33 favorites]


I was once on my own for a few days in Italy, waiting to meet up with friends later on in Spain. I hadn't spoken anything but a few words of survival Italian to anyone for a few days, and was feeling--not exactly lonely, but a bit disconnected. On my way between cities, I ended up in a train compartment with a Portuguese family (mom, dad, grandma, kids) and a middle aged Italian guy. Everyone was politely doing their own thing until it was time for lunch. At that point the Portuguese family hauled out an enormous feast of a picnic and, using gestures, insisted on sharing the food with the Italian guy and me. It was so kind (and the food was delicious). It turned out the Italian guy spoke a little Portuguese and a little English, so he did some translating for all of us so that I could thank them and we could all exchange a bit of info about ourselves. I still remember this fondly, and it happened 20 years ago.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:11 AM on December 8, 2018 [26 favorites]


I wear eyeglasses and I've got clip-on shades like these. One sunny day a few months ago I had just walked into the grocery store and a little kid, probably around 4 or 5, watched in rapt wonder as I flipped them up. Of course I had to stop and flip them down and up a couple times just to give him a thrill. Then I smiled up at his chuckling grandfather and continued on toward the produce section.

I'm a very goal oriented waste-no-time shopper, so while I can generally be pretty relaxed about talking to strangers I'm not usually in the mood for idle interactions in shopping situations. This was an unusual - but pleasant - departure for me. Moderation in all things, eh?
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:19 PM on December 8, 2018 [8 favorites]


I live in New York City and I have traveled a lot so I have a ton of stranger-encounter stories, none of which I can remember right now (I just got back from a frustrating trip to the bank).

Literally the only thing coming to mind at the moment is: I was on a trip to Italy, and had just taken the train from Rome to Florence. I was staying at a youth hostel like ten blocks from the train station, and was walking there, wheeling my suitcase through the teeny wee little cobblestone streets (which means that every few feet I was also trying to keep it from toppling over). And when I say teeny streets...i mean it. The streets were only the width of a single car, and the sidewalks were only the width of a single person. So I was a little grumpy.

At some point a ladder in front of me, standing on the sidewalk and propped up against the wall of the building. I wasn't so sure it would give me wide enough passage for me and my suitcase (and I am a little superstitious), so I sighed and wrestled me and my suitcase into the street itself to walk around it, and get back up on the sidewalk once I was past it.

And an Italian guy coming towards me on the same sidewalk saw me doing that, and gave me a chuckle and a grin and said "Malo fortuna, eh?" I knew what he meant, but didn't know enough Italian to communicate further, so I just gave him a world-weary smile and went on.

I don't know if a shopkeeper counts, but - later that same trip, in Rome, I tried ordering a cup of hot cocoa at a chocolate shop on an unusually cold May night. The clerk - who said she spoke no English - said they didn't serve that. I just shrugged, pointed at the book and said "Malo" (bad). She shook her head no, then....somehow managed to convey to me that "hot chocolate is a seasonal beverage and we don't serve it in the spring" entirely just by using hand gestures.

Oh - and it wasn't the shopkeeper, but I am totally in love with a little Tunisian hand towel shop in Paris entirely because the first time I went in, there were two ladies who were also shopping at the same time and they were having the best time, showing each other what they were finding as they browsed, asking each other "oh, where did you find that one?" and the like. As I poked around, they even started looping me into it, speaking entirely in French (and thank God I knew what they were saying); "ah, la jaune c'est belle, ou-est ca?" "Avez-vous vu les rayures bleues? ils sont mignons, oui?" "Oh, j'aime bien ces roses, où les as-tu vues?" And giggling and having a whale of a time. And it wasn't until one of them finally went to settle up that I finally realized that they weren't even together - they were themselves a pair of strangers who'd just happened to find themselves in the same store and were both in a good mood and just looped us all into it. And I was doing so well in French that the clerk didn't even realize I was American until I was checking out after they'd left and she saw my passport. (And since it was near New Year's, after she checked me out, she very carefully said "....happy....new....year!" then asked me if she'd said it right.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:27 PM on December 8, 2018 [13 favorites]


Oh, and cab drivers - cab drivers are great. Possibly my favorite cab driver story ever was from several years ago, when I was late to work and cabbing it. It was sometime during the 2000 Cow Parade in New York, and I amused myself playing spot-the-cow as we drove. Every so often I saw the driver also glancing at the cows.

Suddenly he asked me: "Excuse me, is something happening?"

"....Sorry, what?"

"I am curious, is something happening?"

"....I'm not sure what you mean."

He gestured out the window at one of the cow statues, and said, "This week, everywhere I go, I am looking around and I see beefs!"

I told him about the cow statue thing as best I could, but didn't have the heart to correct him from "beefs" to "cows".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on December 8, 2018 [16 favorites]


Countess Elena, Your post reminded me of a memory from college. I was going thorough a haunted house at Halloween (I don't do those anymore!) and there was a terrified boy immediately behind me. He was alone and perhaps 10. We were headed down a narrow curtained hall toward an actor dressed as Dracula. The boy was frozen to the spot. I asked if he wanted to hold my hand and walk with me and he nodded vigorously. I took his hand and yelled ahead to the actor, asking him to give us safe passage by standing still and not talking to us. As we inched toward the actor, the boy had his head buried in my side. When we reached Dracula, we had to *squeeze* past, but he stood stock still and gave me a single wink and a fanged smile. The boy stayed glued to me the rest of the way through the house and I was honestly glad for the company. When we reached the exit he sprinted away with nary a glance over his shoulder at me, yelling "Moooooom!!!" every step of the way. I was grateful for both of us that there were no boogie men waiting on the lot to jump out from behind a tree and give chase.

I'm preparing to fly cross country to home in Tennessee for Christmas. I normally go once in the spring and again between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but, for various reasons, I couldn't do that this year. I would be dreading it if it weren't for my wonderful aunt who travels frequently for work. She got me free first-class round-trip tickets, which will make the trip much easier. I've only traveled first class a couple of times and I always feel like apologizing to those coming though to the cattle section after I'm seated. I want to say, "I'm so sorry! I normally travel economy, too, but I got these tickets for free." It makes me feel so guilty!

After I get back, I'll be asking my husband of 25 years for a divorce. I have had many, many months to contemplate this major life change and, horrible as it may sound, I'm already mentally "nesting" back in Tennessee, where I'll move in the spring. I know I must be very conscious to give him plenty of time to grieve and adjust.

I wish you all peace this holiday season and in the New Year.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2018 [35 favorites]


This morning I ran out to the garden centre to get a gift certificate for my father's girlfriend. I was making small talk with the woman checking me in when I realized that she was my co workers daughter, and commented on what a small world it is. That's when the fun began.

She had given her father a pointsettia last year just before Christmas. He had brought it into the office and nursed it lovingly all year long. It is now a big and very healthy looking plant, but there's no trace of red flowers despite his best efforts. Her father has also been out of the office for the past few days and have been threatening to spraypaint some leaves red while he's out. I mentioned this to my co worker's daughter and a plot was hatched.

I walked out of the garden centre with a pointsettia with lots of of beautiful red flowers and glitter on it, instructions to swap out Harold's green pointsettia for that one before he comes to work on Tuesday and to get everyone to play it straight, plus the gift certificate I had gone in to get in the first place.
posted by peppermind at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2018 [27 favorites]


I told him about the cow statue thing as best I could, but didn't have the heart to correct him from "beefs" to "cows".

As long as the cattle are intended for meat, “beef” (pl beefs or beeves) is OK, although it will get you looks.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:56 PM on December 8, 2018 [4 favorites]


I seem to get so many life stories/vacation confessions/semi-appropriate marital tales from strangers. i feel like I have good go-away face, but apparently not.

But, there is definitely something about New Orleans. My visit there was so lovely and full of many conversational encounters with locals and other visitors. The most memorable being the many hours spent conversing and drinking with someone who identified as my political opposite but seemed to share my progressive values more often than not. It was so interesting to watch identity and belief weave and unravel and and re-weave as we very deliberately sought common ground but also gave no quarter. Something about that town seems to foster a sort-of "we are all in this together" kind of vibe with me that allowed me to move, however temporarily, away from burn-it-all-down to lets-meet-and-move-forward.

I hope he thought about his single-serving New Orleans friend when voting in the midterms, because he had the opportunity to cast some historic votes, that I hope he took.
posted by Hopeful and Cynical at 1:04 PM on December 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


Years ago, I was leaning on a bridge railing on a sunny day around this time of year, looking at the river and (if it was the same day, which it may not have been) eating one of the best roast sweet potatoes I've ever had. An elderly man came up and leaned next to me and engaged me in conversation; he may have been trying to pick me up (he wanted to take me to the movies) but it was generally unthreatening, and he told me all about how you used to be able to swim in the sea down at Hamadera Park (now, no, unless you want closer acquaintance with a lot of industrial chemicals) and, as we admired the ducks swimming around, how they spend their summers in Siberia and come to winter over in West Japan. I still have no foundation for this theory, but I've accepted it as the truth ever since.

I also get into a lot of short conversations with little kids on the train when I'm carrying my cello case, since they tend to stare with question marks in their eyes. Most of them answer "guitar" or "violin" when asked if they know what it is, so I get to spread the bass clef gospel a little.
posted by huimangm at 2:25 PM on December 8, 2018 [4 favorites]


I used to ride the bus with a student who went to my university. We tended to share a seat because we knew we wouldn’t annoy each other. Mostly, we chatted about vegan cooking, although we also cheered each other on through surgeries and other life events. She eventually graduated and moved away; we exchange emails now and again. I like to imagine this could inspire some sort of fussy art house film, sort of 84 Charing Cross Road, but with more bus riding and references to KMFDM.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:33 PM on December 8, 2018 [8 favorites]


I travel on the commuter train with my 2 year old daughter every day, and she's much more outgoing than I am (and I'm pretty outgoing already!). Most of my social interactions are thanks to her, and she has about a dozen Train Aunties now.

Oddly, I just put up a new Projects post that fits right in with the theme of odd interactions with strangers.
posted by duffell at 2:38 PM on December 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


When I was 17, I worked at the mall, right off the highway, on one of those built up state roads filled with box stores. It was Christmas Eve and I had just gotten out of work. As I approached the intersection that would take me off the main road, behind the mall, and down the back roads I used to get home (the same back roads I use today because Rt I is a fiery pit of hell but it has the closest Stop and Shop even though it’s across the border) Where was I? As I approached the intersection where I’d be turning, my car very unexpectedly died. On Route 1. Right in front of the still open mall. On Christmas Eve. In 1996. It wasn’t a good situation. Drivers were assholes and I burst into tears. Helpless. In the middle of the road.

And then Christmas Guy happened. There was a tap on my window. Christmas Guy told me to put my car in neutral. He got back into his beat up red pick up and with a gentle tap, pushed my car around the corner and into the parking lot of an abandoned fire station. I called my mom from a pay phone there and he waited with me until he showed up. I offered to him pay him. He declined. His family had been going through a hard time, and he didn’t know if I was the praying type, but if I was, could I just pray for them? When my mom got there, he wished us a Merry Christmas and left.

At 17, I was definitely not the praying type, but I prayed for him that night. And I have every Christmas Eve for the last 21 years. And whenever I randomly think of him, which is fairly often. I’m about the age he was then. I hope he and his are doing better, if not well.

(My mom brought gas. I wasn’t out of gas but I was able to drive home. Unfortunately, she put gas in the oil can instead of the gas can and it did more damage to my already wrecked engine. Two years later, I would think of Christmas Guy after the same car, with a new engine and a sued mechanic that landed my mom an invitation to go on the People’s Court, died in PVD and my dad and I made the wildly irresponsible decision to push it back to our suburb 15 minutes north. On the highway. Doing the speed limit, at least. There is nothing more exhilaratingly stupid than gently hitting your own car with your father in it at 65 mph and fuck yes that was our best father daughter moment because I made that connection so smoothly we barely felt it AND we were both on cell phones WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!?!?)
posted by Ruki at 2:51 PM on December 8, 2018 [46 favorites]


Damn, Ruki, that's a great story.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:56 PM on December 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


About a month ago, I went to a concert by myself (The O'My's, who are amazing and my new favorite. I got to see them this week at a live taping of Sound Opinions (NPR), and am seeing them again in 2 weeks. Soul/R&B, sorta throwback with an edge and distinct vocals).

Anyway, I was there on my own and this venue was weird with lots of seating, including a row of barstools on the edge of the top level. I ended up next to a guy also there by himself, who is friends with the band so they stopped by and said hello, and I got to meet and chat with them for a bit which was really awesome. We were drinking the same thing, and when the waitress stopped by we both reordered. She said "ok, both on his tab?" And we both quickly answered NO. After she left, he said "If I was more of a baller, I would have said yes." I laughed, I'm about 10 years older than him and married. It was really cute and sweet. There was another girl who came by herself that sat on the other side of me, we took turns watching each other's drinks while we went to the bathroom.

That whole night reminded me how much I like going to concerts on my own. You can concentrate on the performance, come and go when you want, and the other lone wolf concertgoers are generally pretty convival.
posted by Fig at 3:17 PM on December 8, 2018 [12 favorites]


Talking to strangers while travelling Ireland was a delight. I was often pulled over by the side of the road checking my GPS because I was lost, only to have someone materialize by my car and ask "are you alright?". It made for an amazing trip - everyone was so chatty.
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic at 3:24 PM on December 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


Moving back to the early fruit and veg theme, I was able to rescue a woman's phone on a local bus after she dropped it down the back of the back row of seats. I used only a stick of rhubarb, which I had bought at the market by the bus stop.

Where I live is small town and friendly. Its not uncommon for older people in particular to strike up conversations at bus stops and on buses.
posted by biffa at 3:53 PM on December 8, 2018 [7 favorites]


Johnny Wallflower, I was so thrilled by the question this week because it is seasonally appropriate and it means people will be thinking good thoughts toward Christmas Guy. Thank you.
posted by Ruki at 3:59 PM on December 8, 2018 [9 favorites]


One Christmas when my boys were 4 years old and 2 1/2 (and Nano McGee not yet a twinkle in my eye), we got hit with a nasty little stomach bug a few days before Christmas and weren't able to head to grandma's house as planned, and my kids were borderline hysterical about whether Santa would know where to take the presents etc. By Christmas Eve everyone is done with fevers and vomiting, so we crossed our fingers the weather would cooperate, and all piled in the car at 5 a.m. Christmas morning to make the 2 1/2-hour trek to grandma's house in Chicago.

About 7:15 we're on the Tri-State headed north, roads completely empty, sun juuuuust peeking over the horizon and my kids (who dozed most of the trip) waking up enough to be antsy about being in the car and anxious about whether Santa would have gone to the right house, since it was supposed to be grandma's, but then we were at OUR house on Christmas Eve night, but now we were going to grandma's again. I assured them moms have Santa's cell phone number and I alerted him to the situation, but they were pretty upset and worried.

When SUDDENLY a motorcycle buzzes past us on the right, with A JOLLY FAT MAN IN A RED SUIT astride it. WHAAAAAAT? I freakin' floor my minivan to catch back up, and as we pull up along side him we see an absolutely perfect Santa Claus -- gorgeous red suit with fur trim, black shiney boots, long and obviously real white beard, white hair, and red Santa hat (you don't have to wear a motorcycle helmet in Illinois, which normally I decry but just this once was awesome). He looks over at us, sees my kids in the back seat, and gives them a friendly wave and a conspiratorial wink. And then zooms back ahead of us.

My kids were ABSOLUTELY BESIDE THEMSELVES. It was sunrise and THEY SAW SANTA HEADED HOME TO THE NORTH POLE (he was Northbound on the Tri-State!), and he OBVIOUSLY knew just where to leave their presents, because we were just two miles from grandma's exit. When we got to grandma's house they raced past grandma to the tree to see that, yes, it was all real, it was all true, Santa had brought them presents and put them under grandma's tree and they'd really, really seen him! (The decided obviously the reindeer were on vacation in the Bahamas after working so hard the night before, that's why Santa was headed home on a motorcycle.)

So thank you to that absolutely lovely man dressed as Santa on a motorcycle on the Tri-State at dawn on Christmas Day, who filled two little kids with awe and wonder and joy.

My boys still believe in Santa -- they're 9 and 7 now -- and I honestly think it's because of seeing Santa that Christmas morning!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:03 PM on December 8, 2018 [56 favorites]


It's Saturday night, I've been out of town since Wednesday, and I'm thoroughly ensconced in my happy place: in our cave with our colored string of lights, under a blanket in each of our recliners, and the dogs are napping at our feet and it just couldn't possibly be more of a happy place right at this moment.

Stranger story:
A friend and I went to a march - I honestly don't remember which one - maybe a moral monday? Anyway the speaker started to lead a prayer. I'm not a religious person, but respected that many of the people at the march were and it was no biggie. There was an older black gentleman standing next to me. He suddenly reached for my hand and held on for dear life for the duration of the prayer. I just held on right back and when it was over, I liked over at him & smiled & he nodded, not a word from either of us.
posted by yoga at 4:06 PM on December 8, 2018 [9 favorites]


I had a great interaction with a guy on a train here in Australia a couple of years ago. I caught him looking at the bone carving I was wearing and he asked if I was from New Zealand. I said yes but that the bone carving was actually from Tonga. Asked him if he was from NZ too and he was like, "Nah bro, from the Cook Islands."

Now usually if someone is from Rarotonga, the most heavily populated island in the Cooks, they'll say that, rather than "the Cook Islands", since most New Zealanders and Australians only know that island. So I figured he was from somewhere more interesting.

"Which island?" I asked
"One of the small ones. You probably don't know it."
"Try me," I said. "I spend a lot of time there for work."
So he looks surprised, but says Atiu. It has a population of about 500, and it's not easy to get to. Doesn't really attract tourists. I've spent a month or two there, and this blows his mind. We manage to ascertain that I know his house (the red one, near the post office.)

He asks me a bit about why I've spent so much time in the Cooks, and I tell him about my fieldwork on an even smaller island there (population 54, no way for tourists to visit at all). It turns out he has spent a lot of time on that island too (unusual even for Cook Islanders). We reminisce about all the people we both know on the island. I have never met anyone else in Sydney who has even heard of it, let alone been there.

But then it's my stop. He gets off too, even though it's not his stop. We are both like, we can't just walk off like it was a normal conversation. I'm a little worried he might ask for my number though, and I don't know if I'll give it to him. Even though he seems lovely, I don't want it to get weird.

He says, "So, well, maybe I'll see you on this train again one day."
I say, "I hope so."
He says, "Well, before you go, do you mind... Can I just..." And I'll thinking, here we go.. but he finishes, "Can I just high five you?"

So we high fived, and he went "Aw, BRO." And I went, "Bro!" even though it felt mildly culturally appropriative, and we went our separate ways and I never saw him again.

The end.
posted by lollusc at 4:14 PM on December 8, 2018 [59 favorites]


About a decade ago, while I was driving in a really desolate part of Wyoming in the winter, a horrid little ground blizzard struck with 40-60 mph winds. It was on one of those roads where you can't get RADIO reception let alone cell reception; the nearest "town" might be about 50 miles away and the mileage between towns with any kind of accommodations was more than 100; and I was by myself. It was about 10 at night, and it was one of those awful ground blizzards that if you were high enough or still enough you could see, but as soon as you started moving it was a total whiteout. And it was a gravel road, covered in snow, without any delineator posts or markings, and the snow was starting to drift really bad as well. I couldn't see a goddamn thing the second I got above 5 miles an hour, had almost gone off the road twice, knew I was in trouble, and so the second I found a little turnoff I pulled off on it. It was cold, too, and I figured I was in for a long, miserable night. And so I waited, hoping the wind would die down.

To my surprise due to the desolation, time of night, and weather, not long after a semi truck went by going full speed - they were high enough they could see just fine. I watched them go up the hill. . . and then slow down. And back up. And being by myself and a woman I got a little nervous. But then they stopped a little ways ahead, honked their horn, and an arm came out the window and waved in the "Follow me," motion and then they started going forward very slowly. So I pulled out and behind them.

Whoever it was obviously had a place to go, and could go there at 40-50 miles an hour. But they didn't, because whoever it was had instantly ascertained my problem and decided to help. For ~60 miles they went 25 mph with their hazards on, leading me and keeping me on the road, and I inched behind them with my hazards on, only able to see the back part of their semi, around every weird turn and curve, down hills and up hills and through snow drifts, past stop signs and junctions, to the highway and beyond - that whole time, we never saw any other person - until we got to the next "real" town with a gas station and a motel at which I pulled off. Then with a big honk, they waved again and went on their way at full speed again. . . but not before turning around and going back the way we had just came. Who knows how far back their destination was.

Though our only real interaction was a few honks and some arm waves, to my eternal gratitude they spent hours in a blizzard with me. I think about that person(s) often and hope they are having the best life.
posted by barchan at 4:20 PM on December 8, 2018 [97 favorites]


Other memorable public transport stranger experiences:
-the punk who asked me to hold her pet rat when she went to the bathroom
-the orthodox Jew who asked me to bless him so he and his wife would conceive
-the very drunk recently divorced woman who wanted to show me her collection of photos where she had cut her ex out of them
-the woman with her dog who was being hassled by transit officers because she had a group ticket and they said a dog didn't count as a person and need a separate pet ticket. She wanted me to give my opinion on whether a dog was a person or not.
-least fun: the guy on the overnight bus who kept stroking my hair every time I fell asleep. Fortunately the driver kicked him off.
posted by lollusc at 4:21 PM on December 8, 2018 [11 favorites]


Oh man. I could write a book about this subject. I don't even know where to start or what story to tell because at this point it's just a wild soup. You could just follow me around for a few days.
posted by loquacious at 4:29 PM on December 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


I have sooooo many of these - these are as I told them on facebook.

I was waiting in line behind this guy at a deli and he had both hands clenching the edge of the counter. He was telling the restaurant worker pulling a beer exactly how to angle the glass and how to get the beer into it. It went on and on.

Finally, he left and I said, “If you look up mansplaining in the dictionary you’ll find his photo.” She laughed so much as in throw back your head and laugh so hard tears come out of your eyes.
---
A woman on the streetcar told me she liked me “even though I’m an adult.”
---
I talked with a homeless woman for a couple minutes and she said that she was from Hollywood and that Portland was "way weirder" than Hollywood.
---
I think I just got proposed to by a 50-something Honduran doctor. I told him he had to text me something funny to make me consider it.
---
Tonight I met Doc as he was climbing Glisan very slowly. I asked if he’d mind if I joined him and he was OK with that.

He sat down a couple times on the way up the hill, out of breath. He kept searching the breast pocket of his shirt - he has a lighter but no smokes.

He came here either 3 years ago or three months ago from Hot Springs, AR.

He has a horrible wound-lump over his right eye which he got from falling down. He said he’s seen a doctor and is going back next week.

I was heading home and asked if I could shake his hand and he said yes. He also needed a hug. ❤️
---
I won a bet today from a bartender who thought he was older than me... one more dollar I can spend on Oil of OldLady.
---
A homeless guy out on Burnside shared his joint with me until he started getting a little worked up about being executed by a heroin injection and how he was going to destroy the earth - and kill us all - after he was dead.

I asked him where he was going to sleep tonight - out of concern - and then he got really upset and said “fuck you asshole go away.”

I handed him a couple bucks and said “fuck you asshole” and gave him double flippies as I left.
---
I was waiting for the bus and a dude rode up to me on the sidewalk and offered me a ride down the hill on his handlebars. He then told me about how his friend had been riding on his handlebars and somehow his butt was bumping the other guys' face and he said "dude quit bumping my butt, people are going to think we're gay."

I gave him a look of "dude not cool" and then had to laugh at him for the next few minutes as he tried to backpedal and tell other anecdotes and justify and dispute that his joke was offensive.

Too bad, I would have liked to talk about something else to an attractive man who offered me a ride on his bike.
---
stopped in the park on Saturday with a container of leftovers. I’d walked a couple of blocks to find someone who needed them and finally found them.

I asked them their names, introduced myself, shook their hands. I always keep a few $ones in my front pocket to buy Street Roots or give to people so I handed the ones out. But there was a guy sitting with them in a button down shirt, khakis, big old cigar and a breast pocket full of more cigars. I paused and he nodded, “I’m OK.”

And dang I should have talked to that guy, we seem to have the same interests.
---
At a Planned Parenthood bingo night tonight I went up to the caller and asked him to stop saying “G as in girl.”

I then had a conversation with a guy about why “girl” was bad. I told him that “girl” reduces a woman to a child. We had a long talk and he actually told me I had taught him something.

For all intents and purposes “g as in girl” isn’t that bad, but so many women are unfairly called girl and for fucks sake it’s a Planned Parenthood benefit, at least recognize that and how negative “girl” is for some of us.

He tried to justify it by saying, “I’m saying b for boy.”

I told him to say “g as in golf” but other folks suggested “g as in gifford,” “g as in gonnorhea.”
---
Yet another conversation with a Trump voter. He says he hasn't had health insurance in 16 years and if he gets cancer he's going to "go out in the woods and put a bullet in [his] head."
---
(After a big gas explosion in my hood that took out an entire building) I tried to sneak down Glisan to 23rd, but the street is blocked off halfway down. I tried to get on the cop's good side by telling him he looked tired and patting him on the arm. He wavered for a second when I asked him if I could walk down to 23rd, but ultimately denied me.

He said no one could go down there unless they were police or natural gas. I told him I fart a lot but he was not swayed. I wished him a good evening and made my way back up the hill to 24th.
---
If these are interesting I'll dig up some more.
posted by bendy at 4:34 PM on December 8, 2018 [13 favorites]


One night in college I was leaving lab fairly late in the evening after a long and not very scientifically fruitful day when an ice cream truck pulled up behind me and the guy inside asked if I wanted anything. I was pretty broke and had zero cash so I said no thanks but as a total afterthought asked if I could ride around with him. I know that is a totally insane thing to ask a random stranger when they’ve cruised up behind you on a lonely street but it just seemed ok at the time.

I spent the night driving from party to party with him and watching college kids turn back into little kids when presented with the difficulty of choosing their ice cream treat flavor. It was a really lovely night and I ended up friends with the guy - I’d occasionally hang out with him again for the next couple of years. We went to a show together once.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:38 PM on December 8, 2018 [27 favorites]


This is just a fun little fact. When I was little, my mom bought my sheets from a woman who owned a little textile store near the stadium. I have a really vivid recall for places, so I can clearly picture the inside of the store, and while I don't remember what the woman looked like, she never yelled at me for stroking all the interesting materials in her shop. That place was a textural dream. And it's where I got my Monchichi sheets and they were the best.

I do know what she looks like today though, because that woman is now my mother-in-law.
posted by Ruki at 4:39 PM on December 8, 2018 [39 favorites]


I was at a concert with a friend and we were trying to figure out how the keyboardist was making these really expressive and time-varying sounds that clearly weren't just the use of aftertouch, and the guy next to us pointed out that the thing in the keyboardist's mouth was a MIDI breath controller (which I wasn't previously aware of), and I watched for a second and had the dual impulse to respond with "oh, you're right!" and "oh, that's weird!" but what came out was a really enthusiastic "OH, YOU'RE WEIRD!" He took it in stride.
posted by invitapriore at 4:44 PM on December 8, 2018 [9 favorites]


My boys still believe in Santa -- they're 9 and 7 now -- and I honestly think it's because of seeing Santa that Christmas morning!

Eyebrows McGee, your children are clearly empiricists at heart, and I applaud you (and Santa of course) for nurturing such impulses in the next generation!
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:06 PM on December 8, 2018


San Francisco, near the Presidio, October 2012, Saturday night. Some festival unknown to my wife, our traveling companions and me ends, disgorging thousands of Bay Area music fans anxious to return to their overpriced homes. The streets are overwhelmed with Priuses and Accords.

My wife is too tired due to her chronic illness to walk back to our hostel, but not a single taxi on the peninsula is available. Cab companydispatchers sound dubious over the phone and promise me anything to get me off the line. After two no-shows, we resort to slowly walking along a curved street back to our digs, as I continue trying to flag down every cab that passes.

A cyclist approaches in the bike lane of the otherwise-filled-to-capacity street, just as I fail to hail another cab with my outstretched hand. The cyclist speeds up and raises his right hand, looking me in the eye. I falter, and then decide to raise my hand high and proud.

Two strangers high-fived in solidarity and resistance as both of them tried to navigate hellish Saturday night San Francisco traffic without cars. It was a moment of true human contact both magical and glorious. My wife laughed so long and so hard she lost control of some bodily functions on the side of the road.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:11 PM on December 8, 2018 [10 favorites]


Back in the late 80s, I was walking along Comm Ave in Boston when I found a photo on the sidewalk. It was of a guy laughing, in front of a shop with a neon sign that said The Bunghole.

WTF? The Bunghole?? I think I blushed. Plus the guy in the pic was a cutie. Sort of Giancarlo Esposito by way of Jean-Michel Basquiat. My BF at the time saw the photo and said, "Oh yeah The Bunghole. That's a liquor store up in Salem." Ok. So whatever. I slip the photo into my wallet because it's so weirdly local and funny.

About two years later I'm riding the T and I look up and lo! it's the dude from the photo! Unreal. I take the photo out of my wallet—yes, I still have it in my wallet—and I tap him on the shoulder and say, "I think you dropped this."

He. Is. Stupefied. "What—? How—? Where'd you get this?!?!"

I tell him the story and confess I've just held onto it ever since. We introduce ourselves and talk for a little while. Super nice guy. He tells me about that day in Salem. I'm approaching my stop. He says, "Lemme write something on the back of the photo and you should totally keep it." So he writes, "To B—, best friend ever. H—." I haven't see him since.

I also have a lot of Jeanie Bueller experiences where I meet someone on a train in Prague or at a dingy caff in Gibraltar, and when we finally exchange names they say, "Wow, I'm really good friends with a David Cocoa." And I confess with a sigh, "Yeah, that's my brother. He's the extrovert in the family."
posted by cocoagirl at 5:27 PM on December 8, 2018 [36 favorites]


One:
My daughter is, and always has been, exceptionally cute and outgoing. A couple years ago, when she was about two and a half, and I was pregnant, we got on the T to go downtown. We live near the last station on the line, so we always get to sit, which is nice, but sometimes we wait on the train for quite a while before they're ready to go. I spend that time describing everything to her, because left to her own devices, she will wreak havoc. This day, we were in the first car, right at the front, sitting down. The train driver came through, and I quietly pointed her out to Daughter, telling her that that was the driver, and she has a very important job, helping everyone get to work, or home, or just around the city, and making sure everyone on the train is safe, etc. The woman overheard this, and came over and invited us to go into the driver's compartment, and talked to Daughter about all the buttons for a few minutes, and then let her sit in the seat, and blow the horn. She got to blow the actual horn on a real train! This still seems like one of the coolest moments of my life, and I wasn't even the one who got to do it.

Two:
Last winter I took up running, following a couch to 5k program. It was surprisingly satisfying and not-horrible, until I got plantar fasciitis and had to stop. I hope to resume.
But, before the fasciitis, I was out running one day. It was cold and muddy, and I was a fat lady jogging slowly, because that's the only speed I've got. So I was plodding down this very small street, with determination if not grace, and an SUV pulled out of a driveway, and then slowed as it was driving by me. I didn't even really have time to worry that someone was about to say/do some shitty thing. The guy driving pulled up next to me and gave me a huge grin and a really enthusiastic thumbs up, and then drove away. That's all that actually happened. But something about it gave me this huge feeling of... validation. This guy, who had seen me for, like, five seconds, thought I was doing great, and I could really manage this running thing, and I was gonna do a great job, and he wanted to let me know all that and encourage me.
I wish I could find that guy and tell him how much that meant to me. Some weeks later I completed a 5k race (walking through a good deal of it, but I got there!) and when I was feeling exhausted and miserable, I told myself that Thumbs Up Guy thought I could do this, he thinks I've got it. And I did!
posted by Adridne at 5:28 PM on December 8, 2018 [32 favorites]


When I finished high school I was 17, I decided to spend the summer between uni and school housesitting my sister's place in Melbourne - 2000km away. To get there involved two massive overnight train trips and a whole day in Sydney - a place I'd never really been to - by myself. By time we pulled into Sydney I hadn't had a wink of sleep and was practically hallucinating. I was super young and inexperienced, tired, and some of my mixed feelings about finishing high school put me in a pretty sad state of mind.

Some kids sitting on a bench near me, asked if I was also going to a music festival that was on. I explained that I wasn't and what I was doing sitting at the train station for hours. They were aghast, and decided that they would take me out and show me around the CBD. They took me to the David Jones (fancy dept store) food hall, Hyde Park, and a few other landmarks and just hung out with me for a few hours and were super nice. It was really kind and still makes me happy to think about.

No running this week, tweaked my hamstring a little. This said, the hours of extra weekend time enabled a massive cleaning binge this morning! When I told her she had to tidy her room, my 7 year old burst into tears of genuine despair. Look at the post apocalyptic wasteland they call a bedroom, I had to acknowledge the feelings had some validity. "But there's just so much stuff!" indeed...
posted by smoke at 5:32 PM on December 8, 2018 [10 favorites]


barchan's story reminded me of an event from my youth...

Around 1980-ish I had just finished working as a counselor at a summer camp somewhere near Hendersonville NC along with a high-school friend. He had a motorcycle, and with my salary plus whatever savings I'd had I managed to buy a used motorcycle so we could ride together back to Florida where we both lived. We hadn't been on the road more than an hour when my rear wheel started to act all squirrelly - a quick stop made it clear that I'd picked up a 2" nail.

We hadn't been stuck on the side of the Interstate more than 5 minutes when some guy towing a motorcycle trailer (with an open slot, no less) stopped to ask if we needed help. I explained the situation and he told me to put my bike on the trailer. He took me back to the previous exit while my friend followed. He let me off at a service station next to a Spartanville SC exit then went on his way without accepting any more than my (very heartfelt!) thanks.

Part 2 of this saga is that the guys at the service station took it upon themselves to get my rear wheel off and remove the tire to find a ruined inner tube. They then located a friend of theirs nearby who had a compatible tube and drove me there. The guy wouldn't take more than $2 for the barely-used tube. They drove me back, remounted and filled the tube and tire, and outright refused to accept any money for helping me out in such a profound and life-saving manner. They did, however, happily accept a 12-pack of beer that my friend and I got for them before getting back out on the highway and finally get on our way back home.

I've tried to pay those kindnesses forward since then, but I remain indebted to their combined friendliness and willingness to help out a stupid kid they didn't know from Adam.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:42 PM on December 8, 2018 [13 favorites]


One that makes me happy: I was visiting my mom in Buenos Aires, where she lives, and I went out one night in Palermo Soho to see some music and get some drinks. I was at a bar and wanted to just meet some people, so I went up to a nice-looking group of people and told them (in Spanish) that I was visiting and was just curious about goings-on in the area. For a split second after I walked up and said "perdón," they looked prepared for a confrontation, but that dissipated pretty quickly and they seemed pretty jazzed to show a rando American around. It's important to note that my Spanish is okay: I grew up hearing it around the house from my mom, but she didn't want to teach it to me actively because she didn't want me to have an accent that might harm my chances of, I don't know, "getting ahead." This still makes me sad, but whatever. Anyway, so I'm okay with my pronunciation and grammar, but my vocabulary is pretty lacking, so I'm feeling kind of nervous about conducting an ongoing conversation with these folks, but what won them over was when we were talking about a drink the bar had that featured artichoke leaves. I took a Spanish literature class in high school, which at one point covered Pablo Neruda's poem "Oda a la alcachofa" (Ode to the Artichoke). So we were talking about that, and they asked if I knew what "alcachofa" was, and I was like, hell yeah I do, it's fuckin' artichoke! And they were just endlessly tickled at the fact that I knew that, and how "artichoke" sounds, and then they took me to a show that a friend of theirs was playing at and we smoked weed and walked around the city into the early morning and talked about electronic music (they were big Squarepusher -- sorry, "scuerpushér" fans) and that was that. I still really appreciate their willingness to invite me into their evening and let me tag around with them.
posted by invitapriore at 5:50 PM on December 8, 2018 [12 favorites]


As much as I'd love to visit other countries, the chances of me ever getting outside the US are slim at best. But reading these comments has got me totally jazzed at how willing regular folks are to make obvious foreigners feel welcome.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:40 PM on December 8, 2018 [5 favorites]


I’m sometimes mistaken for other people. In dramatic ways. Very publicly. Like the guy in line at the grocery deli who looked at me, did a double take, and asked if I were a writer.

“Well, yes ... how did you know?” He laughed and said, “I knew it was you! I recognized you!” I was about to be pleased and flattered, when he continued, “You’re Anne Rice!” “Ummmm... no.” Please note I look NOTHING like Anne Rice. Aside from both identifying as female.

He refused to believe me, over my continued protests. Probably to this day tells people how he met Anne Rice at the deli and she wouldn’t give him an autograph.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 6:51 PM on December 8, 2018 [8 favorites]


I was taking my cat to his annual vet checkup last year. The bus stop is only a few blocks away from my apartment and as I’m walking down the sidewalk lugging his carrier an adorably snowsuited little girl (maybe around 7 years old) spots us and shouts “HI KITTY!” in that breathless, ecstatic way that children have. I have never forgotten her.
posted by janepanic at 6:57 PM on December 8, 2018 [14 favorites]


These are making me smile—one of the things I miss most about living in big cities is the tiny camaraderie’s that build while waiting for the subway, or making eye contact when something weird happens and both shrugging at the same time. There’s a witnessing that happens that is so comforting!

Probably the most memorable stranger experience I had was a few years ago. I was driving home and as I stopped at an intersection, this tiny lady in a sari knocked on my passenger side window. She was gesturing for me to let her in, and it was raining, so I just...unlocked the doors and she got right in, arranging her grocery bags around her feet and just beaming at me. Turned out that her bus never came and her son was still at work, could I give her a ride home? We had a lovely chat, despite our language barrier, and I dropped her off ten minutes later.
posted by stellaluna at 7:10 PM on December 8, 2018 [27 favorites]


In May 2011 the final flight of the space shuttle Endeavour occured: STS-134, which was also the second-last shuttle mission altogether. I take a bit of interest in such things, and I knew on the final full day that the trajectory of the ISS and the shuttle would be taking them over where I would be on the road for work.

On May 30, 2011, I finished my work, stepped outside to head back to my lodgings. I knew that if the schedule held, Endeavour had probably undocked about 20 minutes earlier, and as it was a near-cloudless early evening and just after sunset, I paused on a street corner with few tall buildings near so I might get a chance to see orbiter and shuttle pass over my location.

Right on schedule, after a few minutes a bright and steady star rapidly climbed over the horizon in the northwest, followed by another about 45 seconds later. I stood and watched them move steadily across the sky. After I had been staring off into the purple sky for ~30 seconds, a passerby inquired politely as to what I was looking at. I indicated: "that star there is the space shuttle Endeavour and that one just behind it is the International Space Station." As I said this a woman walking by stopped and asked, "Did you say that was the space station?"

The three of us chatted about this for the several minutes it took for the two lights to pass over and begin sinking in the southeast. As in a comedy skit, we kept accruing more people, and by the time the ISS vanished, there were about six or seven of us with eyes turned upwards, engaged in a spontaneous talk on space programs, as well as three or four more people who had stopped briefly, said "hunh," or sounds to that effect, then continued on their way.

After both points of lights had been carried over the horizon, we all shook hands and bade each other good evening, then went on our ways. It was a pleasant spontaneous moment, generated by a couple of sophisticated machines passing 400 km above us at nearly 28,000 kph.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:07 PM on December 8, 2018 [36 favorites]


I actually have a story to contribute! Once in college, I was walking home from class in the rain, and I was happy to have an umbrella, in addition to my sweet-ass yellow slicker. I happened upon an elderly woman exiting a medical office building, and she was clearly surprised to be caught out in a downpour. The next thing happened so fast, I am not even sure how I did this: I walked up to the woman and handed her my umbrellla, and said, “Take this, I have another umbrella in my backpack. You have this one”. But it was a lie, I didn’t have another umbrella, and I just ran away from the bewildered but better protected old woman who had clearly just come out of a doctor’s office. The end.
posted by msali at 8:25 PM on December 8, 2018 [24 favorites]


So, many years ago, say maybe the mid 90's, I was headed to some sort of Linux gathering in an industrial warehouse space on the near west side of Chicago. I can't remember what the specific topic was or what organization was putting it on.

I rode the blue line down a few stops west of UIC, hopped off and went up to the street to wait of the bus. There were already two young African-American girls, maybe around 8 or 9 waiting unaccompanied just outside the L station when I came out. I didn't pay much attention to them, they stayed near the windows of the station behind me, and I stood a few feet closer to the street to see when my bus was coming.

I thought I heard one of them say something to me, but I didn't catch it, and didn't think they'd have any reason to talk to me, so I just assumed they were talking to each other, but then a few seconds later I heard, louder, "HEY MISTER". So I turned around, and one of them asked "Do you speak English?" and I said, "Of course I speak English", but then I realized that because I hadn't responded initially that maybe they thought I didn't understand them.

Then one of them asked me "Why are white people pink?" I was a little taken aback by this question, so I just stammered out something about "Well, that's just how God made us". Then she asked me, sounding surprised, "You believe in God?". Now, the truth is I'm not religious, but I didn't think it was the time to be debating theology, so I just said "Sure." to which she replied "Good", like that was a pleasant surprise.

Just about then a CTA transit cop with a rottweiler with a muzzle came out of the station and the two little girls cowered away from him and his dog. Now, of course, I'm a suburban white guy and at the time a cop and his dog didn't faze me in the least, so I said to the girls, "Don't worry, he's muzzled, he can't bite you", and I asked the cop of we could pet his dog and he said yes, so I started petting the dog and invited the girls over to pet it too, which they hesitantly did.

Just about then my bus pulled up, I hopped on and went off to my meeting, the girls stayed behind. You'd think that would be the end of the story...

So, I vaguely recall that the meeting was slightly interesting but nothing special. It ended, I left, and went down and caught my bus back to the L station. The bus was crowded, all the seats were full, and everyone being strangers to me I didn't pay any attention to who was on the bus beyond moving in as far as I could and finding a seat back to hold on to when the bus moved.

As I found my spot and turned around I heard a small gasp behind me. I looked over my shoulder, and here are those same two little girls in the seat behind me, sitting next to a woman who I'm guessing was their mother. Well, being me, and being surprised to see them again, and thinking it was a very funny coincidence I joked "I'm following you!", to which both the girls and their mother looked shocked and horrified, at which point I quickly stammered to the mom that I had met the girls by chance earlier at the L station, and was just going back there from my meeting, and was only joking about following them. I don't know what they thought, none of them responded that I recall, and I felt embarrassed and worried that they thought I might have some bad intent because of my dumb joke.

Well, my stop arrived, I hopped off the bus, and caught the L home. I wish I could tell you there was something more meaningful to this whole story, but beyond me strolling around neighborhoods which were strange to me in a bubble of oblivious privilege, I don't know what to make of it.
posted by Reverend John at 9:38 PM on December 8, 2018 [5 favorites]


Just thought of two separate subway encounters, both prompted by people seeing me reading.

* I was about a third of the way through LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA. A man gets on the subway and sits down beside me. He glances at me and sees the book, and does a double-take. "Excuse me, is that LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA?"

"Yes."

"Have you read it before?"

"No, this is my first time."

"You're reading it for the first time?" I nod. The man considers this, then grins at me and says, "I envy you."

* I am on a subway, and re-reading Isabel Allende's book Aphrodite, which is a lush and sensual celebration of food; in theory, it's about aphrodisiacs, but her point is that if you consider things in the right spirit, ALL foods are aphrodisiacs.

As I read I vaguely notice a man and his little daughter getting on the subway. The only open seat is beside me, and the father waves his daughter into it. I smile politely and go back to my book. And after a few moments, I hear her little voice ask me - "what's your book about?"

I turn and look at her for the first time - at her flaxen ringlets drawn back into q little pony tail, little t-shirt with ponies on it, big innocent blue eyes looking up at me curiously. I look from her, down to the book in my hands - and then I close it. "It's a book about food," I say simply.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:53 PM on December 8, 2018 [10 favorites]


Twenty or so years ago, I worked as a receptionist in the old mansion of a 47 acre estate that had been bequeathed to my city and turned into a public garden. During the summer the gardens and mansion were bustling with visitors, less so during the winter after Christmas, and on this particular snowy, gloomy late Saturday afternoon in January the place was mostly deserted. I was working alone in the mansion and had not seen a visitor all day; the only other staff working that day was a security guard on the premises, but he was out doing rounds, only reachable by two-way radio.

An older, pleasant-seeming gentleman entered the mansion, shaking off the snow and cold. He greeting me cordially. The entire foyer had been turned into a gift shop, and the man proceeded to look around a bit before returning to my desk to chat. He then asked for our librarian by name, who was not there that day. The man then drew out from under his coat a book, which he asked me to pass along, and left.

Being tremendously bored in the quiet mansion, on this gloomy snow day, I began leafing through the book. It was hand-typed, with little drawings, sketches and notes included on most pages, and the pages were bound by brass fasteners. I can't really describe the exact subject of the book. The ramblings and sketches had to do with what seemed like some convoluted, crackpot scientific/spiritual theories. (One part that stands out was that when God speaks directly to your brain telepathically, you have an orgasm.) Many passages made no kind of sense at all, just words strung together urgently and nonsensically in sentence-like form. If you are familiar with the website Time Cube at all, the style of the writing was similar, as if the author believed they had discovered something profound, but most likely the result of mental illness.

I don't recall there being anything particularly sinister in the book, but the bizarre concepts presented with such a sense of profundity and gravity on the part of the author, combined with reading it in that particular setting was just incredibly creepy. I count it among my strangest experiences.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:19 PM on December 8, 2018 [6 favorites]


For my first ~2.5 years in Portland, OR I didn't have any friends and was super isolated. After being super isolated in the Bay Area for the 3 years before that - and I'd been unemployed for over two years - I got to the point where I would talk to anyone. I walked around late at night, usually with a beer in my hand, and talked to people out and about. A lot of homeless people...
---
I was walking home from brunch today behind two guys who were really really high. One of them punched a tree and I said, "OW!" Me and his friend got him to hug the next tree to make up for hurting the first one.
---
Moved from one apartment to another:
Moving day, talking to Steve, the lead mover.

Me: Haha, don't worry, I packed my underwear myself.
Him: You missed some stuff.
Me: 😳
---
November 8, 2016:
My Lyft driver sat on the porch with me for a while and told me that he wasn't going to vote.

Is Drumpf actually going to win!?!?
---
The cashiers at Zupan's just told me that the meth problem in Oregon is caused by people named Matthew. This state makes no sense to me at all.
---
My across-the-hall neighbor who I've never met just knocked on my door and asked me to zip up her dress. This is the world I want to live in.
---
I'm a person who keeps making friends. Me and my Ethiopian Lyft driver are apparently having drinks tomorrow afternoon.
---
One of my favorite cashiers and I had a conversation about NYE plans.

ME: got any plans for new years?
CHRISTO: Nah, we're just going to stay in. We were going to go to a club but then we shifted gears.
ME: Yeah, I don't want to be out on the roads with all the drunks. I'm staying in too.
ME: I feel so old saying that!
CHRISTO: No worries.
ME: Besides, I just bought myself $26 worth of expensive beer. What more do I need?

The gray-haired tall attractive man behind me was stifling his laughter. I should have introduced myself. 😏
---
I spent six hours this evening flirting with: a ridiculously hot guy with a long-term girlfriend, a married guy, a bartender, a fellow bar patron who wanted to connect but only has a flip phone.

Also the dude in the bodega across the street who clarified that he's not willing to clean my house but will vacuum it.
---
I was walking down a one-way street near my house (a couple weeks after the 2016 election) and there was a guy I thought might be homeless pulling a granny cart up the middle of the street. As he approached me he said, "do you need a hug?" I wavered for a second but yeah I really did need a fucking hug. He came over to the sidewalk and gave me the most fantastic hug I've ever had. He smelled a little like pee but I was so happy for the rest of that day.
---
Tonight I got off the bus at an intersection near my home. There's an empty building at that corner and people sometimes sleep next to it. There was a couple in the nook right at the intersection, she was sitting up and he was lying in a sleeping bag looking hazy and sucking on a cigarette. I said I was going to the Chevron and did they need anything? They both said "soda!" then "Dr. Pepper!"

After a second I went back and asked him if he wanted cigarettes. Yes he did.

Got my beer, 3 Dr. Peppers and a murder of Marbs100. Met the new cashier at the Chevron and I've forgotten his name already.

When I got back the man grabbed the Dr. Pepper immediately and drank half of it in two seconds. I sensed untreated diabetes. :(

About half a block farther I stopped to talk to a guy who knew my name. He told me where we had last talked - our second meeting - and I remembered. He'd kept asking me if I had an extra cellphone.

I asked how he was doing and he said he was cold. I said I have a couple of those handwarmer things, I'll bring them to you. I had found them in a box on the street so I had no idea if they would work but I also gave him the most New England hat I've ever had. The EMS beanie with the fleece-lined flaps.
posted by bendy at 11:24 PM on December 8, 2018 [8 favorites]


And if you can stand a facebook post this was one of my most amazing stranger conversations night ever.

Don't forget your life-work balance.
posted by bendy at 11:37 PM on December 8, 2018


This is such a magical post - thanks Taz.

A while back I was sitting in the window of the Wolf (own blog) when a lady walking by skidded to a halt and asked if she could take my picture, just because.

She didn't want my picture, just thought I was projecting something that I should preserve. It's a pretty ordinary pic; I look like I've just come off a farm, which is about right (I'm a grey man for sure when I look at the pic, windblown and scruffy). But I'll never forget the exchange.
----

Memorable and many years ago, and hilarious in a bleak NZ way. I'd been in NZ 3 days and had been brought up to hold doors open for others (of any gender)... I was 16.

So I'd just gone into a shop held the door for a female about my age ...

"I CAN OPEN MY OWN FUCKEN DOOR"

I was shocked at the time but it's so hilarious now! I do wonder how she went tho', NZ is easy to become isolated in.
----
Stellaluna re big city camaraderie; I was in London a while back waiting to cross near Trafalgar Square, in very casual kiwi tourist garb when a pin-striped guy turned to me and said "isn't this bloody awful".
posted by unearthed at 12:16 AM on December 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


About a decade ago, my friend B and I were cleaning a rental flat after I’d moved out and my cheap vacuum cleaner died in a spectacular smoke and buzzing sort of way. So I said, fuck it, and we trooped off to Argos to buy a Dyson. Now, the Argos was only a 20 minute walk away but a Dyson is a) heavy, b) in a awkwardly sized box and c) B had carpal tunnel in one hand, so couldn’t take the full weight of her side of the box, so it was definitely going to be longer than 20 minutes getting back to the flat. We’d managed to get it into a good hold but it is obviously a bit of a struggle and we’re lugging it through the park between the high street and my flat when we pass a woman on a parallel path, separated by quite a large flower bed. She takes one look at us, pauses, grins and then yells 'You go girls! Dyson! king of hoovers!’ And then carries on her way towards the high street.

Meanwhile, B and I are now laughing so hard, we have to put the Dyson down and sit on a bench for 10 minutes before we can get back into hold and finish lugging it back to the flat.

I then later had to get a taxi to my new flat with the various cleaning things and the Dyson.

I still have said Dyson and as I am lugging it around the place, especially in my new house (why is vacuuming the stairs? 😭), I often hear that lady, cheering us/me on.
posted by halcyonday at 12:40 AM on December 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


In August, standing in line at the San Francisco Airport, I noticed that the college-age African American woman in front of me had a button on her backpack that said "I'll Go With You" on a blue, pink, and white striped background. I worked up my nerve for a few minutes (I'm an introvert) then said, "'Scuse me. That's a trans rights button, yeah?"

"Yes!"

"I've never seen one before! I was looking at it and thinking, 'I need to get myself one of those' cuz I was just reading last week about how it's helpful for supportive cis people to just be there when someone who's trans is going to the pharmacy or a government building or whatever... May I take a photo?"

She's nodding enthusiastically and says, "They were handing them out at my college, but I'm sure you could get them from Amazon."

"Yeah...course I've been avoiding Amazon..." She nods understandingly. "Well I'll look around. I'm sure it'll be on the internet somewhere." (Turns out, yes, buttons are here.)

We talk a bit more. She's visiting from South Carolina with some sorority sisters. There's lots of support at her campus for people who are trans. After a few minutes she just gives me the button! saying she'll pick up another one when she gets back to campus. I've been sending blessings in her direction ever since.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:07 AM on December 9, 2018 [15 favorites]


Ok, not a stranger but a silly thing I did. One of my best friends is Iranian (from Mashhad, if you are familiar with the area), but I don't see him often anymore as a few years ago went back to Iran and I moved back to Korea.

Anyway, there are quite a few Iranians who live in my neighborhood in Songdo, and I am generally friendly with several of them, if not exactly friends (so maybe a sort of stranger story?). I had previously mentioned to them my buddy Ali from Mashhad and how I loved these saffron covered pistachios he used to bring me.

Anyway, this past Thursday one of the Iranian guys from my neighborhood returned from a short visit home and gave me a present. It was sticks of sugar crystals coated in saffron. Sah-weet! I thanked him profusely and took them home. The packaging was all in Persian (which I don't read), and my dumb ass thought they were rock candy and should be eaten like a lollipop.

Hah! I run into the guy Friday and tell him that I ate one and it was delicious and he looked at me like I had two heads. He says "did you say you ate it?" and I had to admit that had. He was like " no, you idiot, it isn't candy! You stir your tea with the stick to sweeten it!"

Hahaha whoops!
posted by Literaryhero at 2:13 AM on December 9, 2018 [12 favorites]


Rice University is as close as you're going to get to Ivy League in Texas. As such, it had many interesting cultural opportunities for me to explore. I'll never forget being at a modern dance recital and thinking "Jesus, this is totally going to suck." and getting caught in the art, or, rather, the Art, Capital A, the beauty and poetry in movement. I was astonished. Still am. It's so beautiful!

I was not astonished by the fact that I was totally psyched up about a movie festival featuring movies starring Gérard Depardieu. I'd come across him here and there, this movie and that one, and I thought -- and think -- that he was a powerhouse on the screen, a rare talent, an amazing actor. What a treat -- Rice was showing one of his movies every Saturday night for eight weeks.

~~~~~

I'd just gone through this brutal breakup; we split the blankets right before this mini festival began. Since Anne was out of the picture, I asked Christine to attend with me. It was a really cool flick, it was his breakthrough flick, he'd just been discovered (I think he was pretty much walking the streets being exactly who he is on screen, this huge, obscene, smart-ass mix of sex and humor and poetry) and after the movie we spoke with a couple who spoke French, who told us that the language in the movie was at least fifteen times filthier than what showed up in the subtitles and that the entire theater was actually still tinged blue from the obscenity. They were a nice couple, the woman French, her husband absolutely fluent, having met her when he was living there. We had a very nice chat, the four of us, after the movie, smiling still on the buzz of the movie, and the buzz of our conversation.

The next Saturday night I was with a different woman. And here was this fine couple, and how nice it was to see them again, and chat, and this is Myrtle, and wasn't that a fun movie.

The next Saturday night I was with a different woman. And here was this fine couple, and how nice it was to see them again, and chat, and this is Flo, and wasn't that just a great movie. And now my movie friends and I have an inside joke going on.

Eight weeks, eight Saturday nights, and each time a different woman, a different name. Mind, I'd have been perfectly content to have been with just one, and in fact to still be with her, but that is not what was happening in my life then or now, and our private joke grew and grew. It was a huge smile between the three of us, and Betsy none the wiser, and neither was Matilda.

~~~~~

I have never seen them since. As far as I know, I've never told anybody about this. I wonder if they know I am thinking of them tonight, might be that over dinner they've told some friends about this wacky situation they experienced over eight Saturday nights in 1990.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:51 AM on December 9, 2018 [12 favorites]


While on a British Airways flight from Los Angeles to London, with hours and hours left to go, I attempted to shave off two or three days' worth of stubble in the bathroom just to kill some time, but ended up cutting my face.

Upon emerging I asked a pair of cabin crew members in the galley whether they had a band-aid as I didn't want to get blood on my shirt, and when asked why I needed a plaster with some concern, I said I'd cut myself shaving.

'Shaving where?', one giggled. 'So we, um, can get you the right size?', the other said, barely able to contain themselves.

I returned to my seat with a microscopic bandaid and a playful admonition to 'watch where you stick that razor!'.
posted by mdonley at 5:34 AM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


I was working in a bookstore over Christmas and spent a good part of the day wrapping gifts. Usually we had a group wrapping for charity, but they were not there for some reason. I wrapped a pile of books for four women, family I think, who were having a whole lot of fun and happy about the gifts they had chosen. They asked if I was wrapping for charity and gave me a chunk of money to pass along to those people, and then they broke out with a loud hearty chorus of "We wish you a merry Christmas." There was just something so happy about these people enjoying the hell out of holiday shopping.
posted by BibiRose at 6:21 AM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


The other day I was walking along when I misheard a random stranger near me ask for a lighter. I offered them one, but as I say, I'd misheard. My bad.

The bloke was so lovely though, he turned around and asked if I'd like a cigarette, or a couple for the evening. He wasn't even smoking, he just pulled out a pack and offered me a couple of darts in return for the light he didn't need. Stellar.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:44 AM on December 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


The other day on Chicago public transit, I watched a young man who was doing some reading homework lean across the aisle of the train to ask another group of young men, “Excuse me, but do any of you know what ‘spurn’ means?” And then I got to watch them collectively figure it out, which was adorable.
posted by merriment at 7:32 AM on December 9, 2018 [15 favorites]


And after a few moments, I hear her little voice ask me - "what's your book about?"

I am 100% incapable of preventing myself from asking about the book you're reading if you're 100 feet of me and reading. I will cross restaurants, bars, train stations, streets, interrupt you, interrupt your eating, whatever. And it's led to some memorable encounters through the years. But one time while whining to my husband about my social anxiety he mentioned that he'd never seen me feel anxious when it came to finding out what book someone was reading. Which is true. I have no fear, I'm like a, a, a. . . a book wolf! That can smell or hear a page being turned from a mile away and will run toward the scent as fast as I can. So he suggested if the context was right (like I need to ask for directions in the supermarket) trying to pretend I'm going up to a person to ask what book they're reading, only at the last second instead of, "What book are reading?" I ask, "Where are the spices?" And I have to say, sometimes it works!
posted by barchan at 8:10 AM on December 9, 2018 [15 favorites]


Not so much an interaction, but yesterday we went downtown and were walking from our train stop when all street noise was rapidly drowned out by the sound of oncoming speakers blasting OOGA CHAKA OOGA OOGA OOGA CHAKA OOGA - and then suddenly, a split second apparition through the crowd emerged, and we were passed by a guy on a bike hauling a souped up flatbed trailer with two large speakers, front and rear, flanking two eager and identical-looking brown labradoodles, their ears flapping to the beat.

It was a feeling.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:14 AM on December 9, 2018 [26 favorites]


You know, I don't think that anyone should have to be homeless. But for the longest time, I have also really appreciated people who are experiencing homelessness for being the best strangers. Way more likely to stop to chat than average.
posted by aniola at 8:41 AM on December 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


When I was 17, I took LSD with a bunch of friends. As the evening wore on, the vibe in that house became a little anxious and negative, so I decided to go for a walk. I walked out to the nearby major street, quiet and empty at this time of night, and I saw a Porsche parked on the side of the road with its flashers on and hood up, and a guy there, evidently fixing it. So I walked over and asked, "Is there something wrong with your car?" He was very startled to see me there, but asked me if I would try to start the car while he did something under the hood. I did, and the car started. He was very grateful, and tried to give me money but I wouldn't take it, I just told him I was glad to help and went to walk on. He was alarmed that I was walking around by myself at that time of night, and wanted to give me a ride back to my friends' house, but I declined that, and told him I really just wanted to walk, and why would anyone hurt me? He offered to go with me, and that sounded nice, so I accepted and we walked on down this deserted main street. We walked and talked, about his life and whatever my poor drugged brain wanted to philosophize about (though I did not tell him I was on LSD, nor did he seem aware of that). After a while we turned around and headed back to his car. As we approached his car, he told me he thought he was in love with me. I thought that was very beautiful, but I pointed out that I was 17 and he was 41, and we didn't really know each other, so it probably wouldn't work out, and he agreed. He had me start his car again, and really wanted to give me a ride, but I declined that, so in the end he had no choice but to let me walk on. He was crying a little as we said goodbye. I went back to my friends' house as the sun was coming up, and in the parking lot across the street from the house there were a bunch of older Asian folks doing (I later learned) tai chi. I watched them for a while, and went back in the house full of peace and love. Everyone in the house was very upset that I had been gone so long, and worried about me, which (rightly) made me feel like an asshole, and that is how the night ended -- the long uphappy comedown from the LSD and everyone mad at me.

But I wonder about the guy with the broken Porsche sometimes.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 9:32 AM on December 9, 2018 [8 favorites]


aah, the kindness of strangers:

About 11 years ago I taught workshops around the country and used a van and trailer. I eventually moved with it from California to the East Coast for a couple of years.

When I got the van, I took it to a shadetree mechanic friend for a tuneup. He had a shop at one of the Bay Area's artist/Burning Man shop warehouses. While my van was in his space, there was a small fire in an adjacent space, triggered by an art project- time-lapse photography with candles. This incident triggered a major fire department/building department/landlord involvement that eventually forced the huge artist warehouse to move and caused a lot of horrible drama for the proprietor. Prior to all this, the artist space had been selling tasteful bumper stickers that sayid"it was on fire when I got here", which is a more or less reference to Burning Man fire art. My van was not injured in the incident but I requested a "it was on fire when I got here" sticker.

A few months later, I went to the East Coast for one of my tours, and my van lost a fuel pump. A new friend of mine owned a farm and some towing equipment, and he kindly had one of his farm employees tow my van to his well-equipped farm and workshop.

Two or so days later, his workshop burned to the ground down due to a grease fire in the caretaker's apartment upstairs. My van was sitting right outside the workshop and was not injured. We began to talk uncomfortably about the curse of my unscathed van and building fires.

Shortly after, I took my van to the local diesel mechanic that everyone used, for something simple like a fan belt. I ran some errands in the next town. I drove past the mechanic shop after hours on my way home.

Uh oh. There was police tape everywhere around the driveway, and a sheriff was parked in the entrance to the parking lot. As I got closer I saw that the mechanic shop had, you guessed it, burned in a bad fire. Oh shit, my van! I didn't see it in the expected spot, um, next to the building, so it must have been inside!

I pulled in, and to my relief, the van was on the other side of the parking lot, safe and sound.

It turned out that the building burst into flames just after work hours, and my finished van was parked just outside the roll-up doors of the burning structure with some other trucks. A crew of construction workers was driving past on the road and saw the fire. They pulled in, called 911, and looked around to see what they could save. They decided to save my cursed van, found a random rope, and pulled the van, in gear and with the parking brake on, to the other side of the lot with their mighty pickup. They told the cops that they'd chosen my van due to my out-of-state plates- "we assumed the owner would have the biggest problem if their vehicle burned up".
posted by twoplussix at 9:42 AM on December 9, 2018 [18 favorites]


Random bits of random interactions over the years:

- When I was a teenager walking to a friend's house in Chicago, an elderly man stopped me and asked me if I would start up his furnace on Saturday mornings for a dollar. I declined. It wasn't until much later that I realized that he was looking for a shabbos goy, and if I hadn't been about a mile from home at the time, I probably would have done it.

- Was window-shopping, and this guy walks up to me and, after making some random comment about whatever I was looking at (I honestly don't remember), asked me if I'd been saved by Jesus. I said the first thing that came into my head, which is that I didn't think that I could be saved because I was probably the Antichrist. (I am not the Antichrist, and have never thought so.) He left without another word.

- Back in my drinking days, I was picking over an Irish breakfast in a bar on Clark Street in Chicago when a woman sat down next to me, asked if she could try my breakfast, and said that she was going to go to a drag show some distance away, and would I like to come with her. I declined, and she kissed me on the lips and left through the kitchen.

- Lots of opportunities to chat with strangers on RAGBRAI. One nice lady struck up a conversation apropos of nothing while we were riding, and it turned out that she was also a librarian, and we had a nice chat about the profession and where we thought it was going. I've also had nice conversations with someone who gave me good advice about simply enjoying the ride for what it is and not worrying about whether I was going to hit my self-imposed speed average or whatever arbitrary goal. I see her every year and we always have nice talks and I still don't know anything about her except her first name and that she's captain of Team Sloth (they have T-shirts and everything).
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:30 AM on December 9, 2018


We began to talk uncomfortably about the curse of my unscathed van and building fires.

This thread has it all.
posted by jamjam at 11:25 AM on December 9, 2018 [10 favorites]


This is a repost from June, it fits here so well and I don't have a better story of this kind. So if it starts to sound familiar, just go ahead and skip.

I was out shopping, and went to the Store where Everything is Cheap and Some of it is Usable (that's not what it's called but it is what it is) hoping to buy a rubber broom. They're great for sweeping cat hair off of rugs. I was lucky because yes! they had them, so I bought one.

Riding my bicycle home, with the broom in my saddle bags (the handle is telescopic, so it wasn't very long) I saw three young boys sitting around an open drain in the street and looking in. I overheard something about bike keys. So I turned back and asked what the problem was: couldn't they reach them, or couldn't they see them? It turned out to be both. But I had just bought a thing with a long telescopic handle! And there's always lots of rubbish in my saddle bags, some of it might be useful.

In one of the saddle bags I found a hook from one of those elastic luggage straps that had broken. There were also some tie-wraps, that had been used and cut; some were still long enough to reuse. So we tied the hook to the broom handle, and the unlucky owner of the keys fished them out of the dirty water within five minutes.

The boys were very polite and thanked me at least five times for helping. I told them I enjoyed solving puzzles, and this one was like one of those computer games where you have to combine the things in your inventory to get a certain task done. And I said: who knows, I may have a problem some day, and then one of you might be nearby.

We parted in high spirits. And the broom works very well.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:26 AM on December 9, 2018 [20 favorites]


Airports are not notably beloved places, but I actually kind of like that period between passing through security and boarding the plane. It's one of the few times in my life I can just sit and read or knit and not feel vaguely guilty like I should be doing something more productive. You're in an airport, there's nothing productive you could be doing. Plus, the earlier you are, the more virtuous you are. So not only can you just waste all that time, you get to feel good about yourself for doing it.

One of my favourite airport waits was a time I spent sitting in an airport on the way to Vancouver. I sat down next to this stoner-looking teenage snowboarder type, who was laboriously forming stitches on the most fantastically ugly acrylic scarf I'd ever seen. I was a 30-something professional, knitting a fairly simple colour-work baby sweater for a friend's shower. Across from us was an Eastern-European grandmotherly type who was churning out intricate lace.

And thus, bonded by the fact that we were all knitting in an airport while we waited for the same flight, three people who would not otherwise have bothered to notice each other spent an hour chatting. The teenager was, indeed, going snowboarding. I was going home to visit family. The grandmother was on her way home after a cruise. The scarf was ugly because he was just learning to knit. I taught him how I joined yarn together (double stitching) and she taught us both to Russian join. He told us how scoring works in different snowboarding competitions.

Last I saw them, he was helping her pull her heavy suitcases off the luggage carousel in Vancouver. It's a nice memory.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:45 AM on December 9, 2018 [24 favorites]

I said the first thing that came into my head, which is that I didn't think that I could be saved because I was probably the Antichrist. (I am not the Antichrist, and have never thought so.) He left without another word.
I am totally filing that one away for future use. It could come in handy next time I run into the proselytizers who hang out in front of my workplace sometimes!

(Note: I feel kind of bad for the proselytizers and will probably not actually fuck with them.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:58 AM on December 9, 2018


Definitely the oddest encounter with a stranger took place on the way back from the Glasgow SF Worldcon in 1995.
I should preface this by saying that I am a very pale complexion white person with curly hair, it is relevant!
I was very tired after the Con and a long train ride back to London. I got on the train at London Bridge and had to stand in the entrance area. After a minute I realise that across the entrance hall of the train was a strikingly attractive young black woman and she seemed to be looking at me.
A small part of me flattered itself that she might be checking me out but I assumed it was more likely I'd just caught her glancing at me by chance and didn't think any more about it. After another minute though, she came over. She looked a bit sheepish and then she said, "I'm sorry but, are you... black?"
I think I just looked baffled (see above) and said "no, sorry". We chatted for a bit and it transpired that I looked somewhat like an albino black person and she'd been curious.
I feel like if I'd been slightly less out of it from tiredness I could have tried to ask her out for a drink, but the whole encounter had thrown me a bit off balance, so we just talked until we reached New Cross, then she got out and I never saw her again.
posted by crocomancer at 12:03 PM on December 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean there's my story from a few weeks ago about the birthday boy on BART loudly announcing his birthday treat of popping a xanax, and then popping the xanax and winking, but I'm not sure if that's a positive interaction or an illustration of the people you meet on BART.

I am crazy sick, which is not great as I have a big presentation to finish today for tomorrow, and then a final paper to write. At least there's not a final in this class. I managed to scrape together enough pictures and words for a dinky garden update, but between the return of the rains and the still wet earth (and how busy I am studying) there's quite a few garden tasks that just aren't going to get done for a week or so.

Back to work!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:03 PM on December 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


This summer my wife and I were at a food festival sponsored by a local church. In looking for a place to sit and eat we spied an older gentleman (probably 80ish) sitting alone, so we asked if we could join him. He turned out to be retired military / retired executive that was there alone because his wife was no longer able to get up and around. So he went out to get out of the house for a little while and he was going to bring her a plate back. He was an absolutely charming guy and we spent an hour just sitting there chatting with him about his adventures travelling the world for both the military and in his corporate life.
posted by COD at 12:11 PM on December 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


I didn't think that I could be saved because I was probably the Antichrist.

I am totally filing that one away for future use.


If you're feeling particularly whimsical, tell them you gave up religion for Lent. Let 'em chew on that for a while...
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:39 PM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


On a flight I’d had to book last-minute for work, I was last to board and took the last available seat, next to a mom flying with her two little girls, ages 1 and 2. At first the mom tried to keep them out of my space, trying to redirect them to play with her. The one-year-old was Very Angry about being on a plane, and the two-year-old wasn’t a lot more cheerful. But then when the mom was dealing with the two-year-old, the one-year-old escaped her grasp and climbed right into my lap, where she settled down, stopped crying, and cheerfully began playing with me. “Are you sure you don’t mind?” said her mom. “Not at all!” I said. “She’s adorable.”

This led to a 4-hour flight wherein the girls decided that I must be the cool babysitter. We watched cartoons; the two-year-old scrolled through all the photos on my phone (thankfully all safe for kids); we made things out of Play-Doh (and the one-year-old carefully but insistently kept putting Play-Doh in my left ear); and the two-year-old played Secret Crayons with me. Secret Crayons is a game wherein she carefully selected a crayon from the box (with much thoughtful consideration of alternatives), then placed it in my hand, closed my fingers over it, said “Shhhh!” and giggled. Then in a minute, repeat (with a different crayon).

I still think about those kids and their mom, and hope they are doing well. They were just the coolest little girls. It must be incredibly hard to fly alone with two such little kids, and I’m glad I was able to help for a little while. (It also made a long, annoying flight a lot more fun on my end.)
posted by snowmentality at 12:56 PM on December 9, 2018 [21 favorites]


Man, I love you MeFites. You're all such wonderful, kind people.

I have another one from today. Just took a quick trip to Safeway so I don't starve at work this week. It was packed and there were only two checkouts open, so the 15 items or less line had 5 people in it and the regular one had over 10 people.

A guy walked up and kind of looked at both lines and then started to get behind me. He had a bunch of cilantro and two limes.

Me: Is that all you're getting?
Him: Yeah.
Me: Bro. Go in front of me.
Him: Are you sure? You don't have that much either.
Me: You're obviously having some sort of salsa emergency. I've been there. Go ahead! :)
posted by elsietheeel at 1:14 PM on December 9, 2018 [23 favorites]


I can't believe I forgot this one!

When I was in college, I broke my foot during a major spring festival, an extraordinarily painful moment tangentially involving Jian Ghomeshi. Being young and stubborn, I didn't want to admit the seriousness of the injury I seemed to have, and I didn't go to the hospital that evening. I insisted on hanging around with my friends, although I was extremely halt and had no crutch or cane besides someone else's arm. As we departed in a group, we came across a set of deep steps, and I prepared myself to inch down them.

From behind me came three young men that someone among us knew; she explained why I was being a bit in the way. One of the students, a big, burly guy, was from Italy, and he seemed to have trouble with English, but he saw immediately what he could do. Before I knew what was happening, he had swept me off my feet like the Creature from the Black Lagoon and carried me down the stairs, saying cheerfully, "Now imagine we both fall together, hah?" Then he set me down, and I thanked him, and I never saw him again.

Perhaps this was a bit peremptory of him, but it was just what I needed, on more levels than one.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:15 PM on December 9, 2018 [11 favorites]


A few months ago, I was just finishing buying groceries at the supermarket down the street from my house, and I heard someone come in and tell the grocery store employees that a little bird had flown into the sliding doors at the front of the door, and was hurt. Nobody knew what to do.

As it happens, I'd written an article a couple years ago about a really cool local bird-rescue organization. It was started by this woman who has one of those big European cargo bikes, and hers is all kitted out with bird-rescuing equipment, like a net, and little knit nests to place hurt birds in.

So I went out to the front of the grocery store, and two guys were anxiously standing over this tiny bird (a yellow warbler, it turns out), not knowing what to do. I called the bird rescue, and they were able to dispatch a nearby volunteer to come get the bird, after instructing me to confine it so it didn't hurt itself moving around. I went inside to the hot bar and got a soup container, which I was able to trap the bird in. The guys and I chatted while we waited, it turned out we all lived on the same block. The bird rescue people thought the bird was going to survive, which I hope it did. Either way, it was nice to feel useful and use an obscure piece of knowledge I'd had.
posted by ITheCosmos at 1:33 PM on December 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


I've been thinking about this thread more and it's making me realize I'm probably the kind and totally weird random stranger in a lot of people's stories.

A friend of mine was reminding me that the first time we met was when he was loading in a full sized vinyl DJ case into my local bar. I don't remember this at all, because I've offered to help carry gear into that bar about a hundred times now. I've apparently been involved in music production so long as a highly unprofitable hobby that it's basically a Pavlovian response when I see audio/stage road and flight cases being moved that I drop whatever I'm doing and go help move heavy shit down the awkward stairs of this bar.

I know I've had people thank me for things like encouraging them to get sober, or go back to school, or random helpful advice. (It's happened right here on MetaFilter in private messages) I've had people thank me for telling them how to treat an ailment. Or thank them for encouraging them on an art project and giving them a good production idea or new knowledge about a material or tool. There's a friend of mine who has an email in her inbox that simply reads: "Change. You want to change and it is possible." so that she would remember talking about wanting to be sober and change a lot of things since we were both drunk when talking about it, and just that reminder was enough shorthand for what we talked about for her to remember, and get to work.

I often don't remember these moments or what I did, not unlike helping my friend carry that DJ case until someone reminds me of them. Even in the case of encouraging some people to get sober at least once I have been way too unsober to remember it at all and I still have no idea how that even works.


I also have pretty much endless experiences and encounters with mostly harmless weirdos and situations that range from pitch perfect dry scripted humor to stuff so silly it might be a Sesame Street skit to soul-wrenching poignant moments.

I'll get the soul-wrenching one out of the way first so I can end on a higher note.

When the community space I was working at was shutting down and I was in the emotional throes of it, I ended up on this deck behind a building that I know because I'd started bawling in public and needed a private corner to collect myself. It overhangs a bar patio and I'm sitting there getting it together and sniffling, and someone on the patio starts singing some really deep, bluesy song that went something like "Where do you go when you can't go home?" and I remember blubbering "Are you fucking kidding me!?" and bursting into tears again and having to find a better place to recompose myself.

And I actually have a field recording of this one somewhere...

So, at the time of this story I'm still camping and working at the local state park, and in camp there's a mix of local homebum kids and some through hikers - and also, Race to Alaska (R2AK) is apparently happening the next morning or so.

It's late, likely past midnight. I'm hanging out with the locals and it's me, two decent guys and a gal that I think was a through hiker, and her friend. We've been drinking beer and occasionally singing around the fire for a while and everyone's feeling real nice, and the weather isn't horrible. With permission I'd been recording things with my field recorder.

The woman through-hiker hadn't really sang much at this point started singing, and one of the locals I know was playing guitar, and his friend was playing harmonica. And apparently she was just an amazing singer and songwriter, and proceeded to just stun the hell out of everyone at the campfire. Not really belting one out, but a good strong campfire singing voice, just enough to echo off the trees a little while letting us know she could really belt it out.

The song was about 3-4 minutes long and the rambling harmonica and guitar backing it was just perfect, and everyone's just awed.

And she says "Oh, crap it's late and I'm probably being way too loud!" and the local homebum guys reply - quietly - "Naaaw, it's probably fine most of the camp is here we do this all the time..."

Followed immediately after that by a blearly-eyed, fit looking older guy wearing expensive looking tech wear stumbles into the camp and firelight and says "Hey, guys? That's real beautiful music and I really hate to break up the party but I have to wake up in about 4 hours to go watch the start of R2AK!" and everyone busts out laughing and apologizing, so we call it a night.
posted by loquacious at 1:38 PM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


Countess Elena gets a special prize for using the word "halt" (in the sense of lame) outside of a Bible quote.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:49 PM on December 9, 2018 [10 favorites]


I was bimbling around Shiraz a few years ago and a random stranger asked if I wanted to stay at his family's house so I could attend his brother's wedding. In Iran you never knock back an offer like that. It was a wonderful couple of days with lovely people and amazing food.

Also, once I was in the museum in Cairo looking at some exhibits in a glass case when a woman next to me leaned in close for a better look and bonked her forehead right into the glass. She tried to act all casual but when she realised I'd seen it she exploded in laughter and I did too.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 2:06 PM on December 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


(Note: I feel kind of bad for the proselytizers and will probably not actually fuck with them.)

I've been proselytized to in the past and just kind of shrugged it off; I'm sure that they meant well. This was strictly off-the-cuff because it was about the last place I expected something like that; I think that we might have been looking at comics or some other nerd thing.

If you're feeling particularly whimsical, tell them you gave up religion for Lent.

Or even now: "What rough beast, its hour come 'round at last..."
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:09 PM on December 9, 2018


I used to stop at a particular coffee shop early in the morning on my way to catch the bus to the university where I work. The coffee shop is near another university, but tended to be empty when they first open ended, when I was passing through. One morning, during finals, there was a student who had been up all night studying with a friend, and had come to buy coffee, but had misfigured the price and was trying to recalculate how she could get two coffees with the money she had. I told the barista I’d pay the extra; this sounded like a coffee emergency. A week later, I was walking past that coffee shop at a more civilized hour, and someone yelled “hey mister!” I turned to find the student running toward me to pay me back. I tried to refuse, but she insisted. She did say that she thought she’d done well on the exam.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:30 PM on December 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


I rode the bus to and from work every weekday in Baltimore and to Towson on the weekends to hit up the library and the record shop. My most memorable event was the time the gentleman next to me suddenly said, “Miss, hold still now.” I froze, but I was confused. His hand moved toward my right knee, I looked down, and there was an ENORMOUS bug (maybe some kind of dragonfly? It was the size of my hand and spread fingers once the wings and antennae were accounted for) sitting on my leg! If anything, I became even more still, the gentleman plucked the bug off me and tossed it out the window, and I immediately started babbling thanks. Normally bugs don’t faze me, but that would’ve thrown me for sure. It was truly kind of him to just set the bug free withthe smallest degree of alarm for everyone.
posted by epj at 2:41 PM on December 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


I like to sketch, often in public spaces. On a good day, someone will compliment me. On a great day, I like to give people my drawings if they will have it.

Most recently, I was visiting Barcelona and drawing in a bar for a few hours. I don't speak Catalan and my Spanish is mediocre, and they didn't speak much English, so there was a bit of a language barrier but they would very patiently listen to my broken Spanish questions about the dishes and respond in broken English. It was very sweet and I wanted to thank them. It turns out this bar was named after an animal, so I drew the animal. When I gave them the drawing, they showed it to the other staff and then put it up on the wall. At that moment, I guess drawing was the best language with which to convey my feelings. I guess that's a pretty corny ending to the story.

Another time, these two people were recording a video for their friend, who was moving to a different city. It was like the notes at the end of a yearbook, but in video form. It had clips of their friends talking about inside jokes, funny anecdotes, and sharing feelings, and they wanted me to wish their friend "happy travels!" and record it. I thought it was a bit odd (I had never met their friend!) but I agreed because I do not hate nice things. I also drew them a small card for their friend.

But here's my favorite time: A few years ago, I was riding caltrain in San Francisco doing a marker drawing when a teenager sat next to me and looked. As I was coming up to my station, I began packing up when I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned, and the kid said they liked my drawing. I asked if they liked to draw and they said yes. I asked if I could give them the drawing. They paused and said ok. So just as we were arriving at my station, I ripped it out, handed it to them, and walked off the train. I don't think I've ever felt so cool before or since.
posted by yaymukund at 2:59 PM on December 9, 2018 [8 favorites]


I ran a leg of the local marathon a few years ago for charity as part of a relay team. I’m not a runner, had never done it before (or since). I was only doing 7k but I wasn’t totally sure if I could run the whole way though I did do some training. Now maybe this is a normal “runners together” thing, but not long after my bit started I kind of fell into step with another young woman. We weren’t right beside each other, maybe a few feet apart, but I was conscious of trying to keep pace with her to help me keep a rythmn, and then realised she was also doing the same with me. At one point I ran to the side of the road to lift some water from a marshall and there was a little bit of a queue so I had to run on the spot for a little bit and so she ran on the spot waiting for me. We never spoke, but we ran together to the end. It was the last leg so we crossed the finish line together. And then we turned to each other and shared a lovely, silent, sweaty, hug. And then went our separate ways without saying a word. Whenever I think of that it gives me a lovely warm glow, and I wouldn’t know her if I passed her, but I think of her fondly often.
posted by billiebee at 3:01 PM on December 9, 2018 [20 favorites]


not once but TWICE a stranger has proposed to me to fulfill an objective on their scavenger hunt
posted by yaymukund at 3:53 PM on December 9, 2018 [8 favorites]


(I heard we weren’t using the word “lame” anymore, so I went with its partner)
posted by Countess Elena at 4:10 PM on December 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


I was in my local Korean grocery store one day picking up some bits and pieces and I can hear a conversation behind me that sounded a little fraught. Now, I understand about 10 words of Korean, all of them food related, so I tuned it out. However, I did catch one word in Japanese (of which I understand about 50 words, all food related) and that was "Unagi. Unagi!!" And I know that word!

So I turn around and there is a very small and very old Japanese man gesturing at the freezers saying "Unagi?" to the Korean mom and pop duo that run the place. They look completely bewildered, he's looking frustrated. So I wander over and say "Excuse me - he wants eel."

Ah! They show him the correct freezer, he gives me a head bob which I return, Mom and Pop beam at me, and I eventually leave the store with a healthy amount of kimchi and a sense of accomplishment.

The store is gone now and Mom and Pop have retired, but I miss that place.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:10 PM on December 9, 2018 [13 favorites]


Senior year in college, I was struggling, massively overwhelmed, and burnt out. A week before finals during my last semester, I got into a bad argument with my parents (I expressed vulnerability, and my dad belittled me for them...), which caused me to start crying hysterically around like 6 pm (I hid in my closet, so I wouldn't bother my roommate). Then, after my tears hadn't stopped even though an hour had passed, I decided to pull on my running shoes and go for a run outside, in the dark, in the small college town downtown area. I tried for about fifteen minutes until I calmed down (turns out, it's difficult to sob and breathe at the same time) and then headed back onto campus. I stopped on a side road near my dorm. Since I went to a small women's college with very little party culture to speak of, pretty much no one was out and about on campus at 7:30 pm when it was dark and a little bit cold outside, and finals were coming up. I had stopped crying for the most part, but I didn't want to go back inside and face my schoolwork, so I dawdled outside my dorm by myself, hoping for something to change so that I wouldn't have to keep on living with all the pressure I was under.

Someone walked by and said "How are you?" I broke down again.

We ended up talking for thirty minutes or more. She told me her name (Becky) and that she was a senior studying Sociology. I lied about my name because I was paranoid that she knew of me (I had a reputation among some students as an overachieving "genius"), and I think she assumed that I was a freshman. Despite the poor start, she sat with me in the grass and confided to me about her depression and her religious beliefs and journey (Buddhism). We talked for 30 minutes or longer until I calmed down and felt better enough to go back to my room and study. I left her outside of my dorm (she lived in a different dorm), and she never saw my face properly or actually got my real first name.

A few weeks later, I helped facilitate the senior graduation ceremony as class marshall. I wish I could say I had some closure, that I had heard her name being read aloud, or recognized her among the seniors walking, but I had never seen her face clearly in the dark sitting along the side of the road. I never met her again, and I still don't know what her full name is. However, Becky's kindness and willingness to spend some of her evening consoling a perfect stranger helped me push through the worst time of my life.

I've never kept a diary, but I wrote an entry after we talked that day. I just reread it, and I'm surprised at how accurate my memory was of our encounter after almost four years... I have very few memories from that time period, probably because I wasn't getting any sleep, but my conversation with Becky had stayed with me as one of the best moments during my lowest times.
posted by devrim at 4:11 PM on December 9, 2018 [17 favorites]


I had hitchiked to Northern California with a friend, who wanted to visit the old Hog Farm Commune, owned at the time by Paul Williams, of Crawdaddy Magazine. I had no idea about any of that, but I was 19 and my friend wanted to do this and I went along with him. After about three weeks of imposing on nice strangers I wanted to go home, but my friend didn't. So, I hitchhiked over the Golden Gate and headed east back to Salt Lake City. Outside Fernley, Nevada it was starting to snow, and I was sunburned, getting cold. A semi stopped and the driver said I could ride, but I had to stay up in the bed with his partner. I said, "Thanks, but no."

It was getting dark and colder when a brand new orange Dodge Charger pulled over and the driver was just back from Viet Nam, and he bought me dinner in Elko, and dropped me off at the University of Utah, which was a couple of blocks from my apartment. I was grateful to be back in my life again. He was a great, quiet, polite, generous man, to whom I owe my life.
posted by Oyéah at 4:45 PM on December 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


My boyfriend loves glitter and lives for occasions where it is appropriate to spackle his face with it. We were waiting in line for a show and he had done just that, caked on the glitter until it formed a glistening, flaky gold beard.

Suddenly a car passes by, and someone yells out the passenger side window: “TOO MUCH GLITTER!”

That’s when you know you’re wearing just the right amount of glitter.
posted by delight at 4:47 PM on December 9, 2018 [20 favorites]


I just want to favorite each one of these a hundred thousand times.

Recently I was in Freddy's with the inimitable Greg_Ace stocking up on provisions for a MeFi campsite. (I was on SNAP at the time and don't really eat much anyway so for the second year in a row the state of Oregon showed us the kindness of contributing ~$125 to MeFi campout food.)

We had split up to cover more ground and I headed to the dairy case for a small bottle of milk. But it was on the very top shelf and there were only a couple bottles pushed way to the back which I couldn't reach even standing on the door jamb of the case. I was looking around for an employee or a door into the back room when a woman approached me pushing a cart.

She had a cane hanging off the handle of her cart and I asked her if I could borrow it for a minute. She said yes and I climbed back onto the door jamb and stretched the cane to the back of the shelf and retrieved the milk. I thanked her profusely and wished her a nice day.
---
I've told the story here before about the woman who found me huddled under the counter at the Post Office and gave me a ride home.
---
I was walking around late at night again and heard two drunk guys trying to remember where they'd left their cars. As they were passing I said, "don't drive." One of them tapped me on the arm and said: "marry me."
---
From the early '00s in San Francisco: Word got out that if you got on the last car of the 5:15 southbound BART one day there would be a party. There sure was. The car was packed with strangers blasting music, swinging from the overhead bars and dancing.
---
Cool stuff used to happen in San Francisco a lot. On of my favorites from the early '00s. Every year at the Epiphany (first Saturday in January) folks would collect stacks of discarded Christmas trees people had left on there curbs and take them out to Ocean Beach and have huge bonfires and drink. One year a friend of mine and I rented a U-Haul and filled it up with trees and claimed a spot on the beach and filled it with our trees. As darkness came you could the bonfires stretching up and down the beach - it was such a lovely site.

After taking in some liquid courage I started wandering around to other bonfires and chatting with people. This photo sums up the spirit of the evening perfectly.
---
And of course I can't forget the kindness and compassion of all the MeFites I've met over the decades - both in the US and in Australia. If you haven't been to a meetup I'd urge you to go. I've always had a fantastic time and MeFites are really interesting to talk to.
posted by bendy at 5:09 PM on December 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


As long as the cattle are intended for meat, “beef” (pl beefs or beeves) is OK, although it will get you looks.

The first time I found out about the word “beeves,” it sent me into a fit of giggles that legit lasted for about an hour, on and off.

I’ll expand on my own story, outlined above: Once on the 7 train to work (in NYC), a man got on and sat down next to me. He had one each of free papers that were published in NYC -- AM NY and Metro New York. The cover of AM NY caught my eye, so I looked over, subtly I thought, and tried to read it. The guy saw me, and wordlessly handed me the paper. I said, "Oh, thanks, I appreciate it" and he said, "Sure, no problem" and started reading the Metro. I read the AM NY. When we got to Grand Central, I gathered up my stuff and handed him back the AM NY and said, "Thanks very much." He said, "You're welcome. Have a good day." You probably kind of had to be there, but it was very nice.

Similar thing happened many years previously, when I was a teenager: I was on a bus, thinking I was being very smooth by reading a New York Times over the shoulder of an older gentleman. (Incidentally, he had folded it lengthwise to read it, which is a lost art in NYC; only people over 45 still know how to fold a broadsheet to read it on public transport.) As he got up to get off at his stop, he folded the paper in half, handed it to me, and said, “There are some very good recipes in here today.” He stepped off the bus as I sat there blushing.
posted by holborne at 5:18 PM on December 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


This isn't quite a stranger story, but it is a strange story and I've been wanting to tell it on Metafilter for a while.

I'm a beekeeper and I teach once a month at a nonprofit apiary. Our apiary used to be off the side of a freeway just outside of L.A. that isn't very busy on weekends. One Sunday, we had about 12 students, were about an hour in, and there were easily 70,000 irritated bees in the air when very suddenly, a police SUV comes bounding up the very steep hill our apiary is atop. My co-teacher and I go running over to the vehicle waving our arms and freaking out because we really don't need 2 police officers stung to death on our watch. By the time we get to the truck, the officers are having a good laugh with their windows tightly sealed.

We gather, by yelling through the window, that we were particularly visible this Sunday morning and the police department had received a number of reports from drivers on the freeway that there was a KKK meeting happening on the farm. We were all in white suits in a circle, and I guess, from the freeway, going 65+ mph, it must have looked terrible. The police had 4 backup vehicles at the bottom of the hill. We were, of course, left to finish our class. I'm still not sure why that happened that Sunday and never before or again. Thankfully, we've since moved our apiary to a much more secluded location.
posted by Sophie1 at 5:56 PM on December 9, 2018 [32 favorites]


the inimitable Greg_Ace

I've been called many things, but I think that may be a first for "inimitable"!
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:11 PM on December 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


A little over a month ago I came into DC to have dinner with a friend and then meet up with my Barn BFF and some other horse friends for Barn Night at the Washington International Horse Show. I'd promised BBFF I would bring her some of my homemade plum and peach jams. Except it did not occur to me that because the horse show is in the big downtown sports arena, it would have Serious Security with bag checks and metal detectors and whatnot. Security tells me in no uncertain terms that I (a) can't bring outside food such as homemade jam into the event; and (b) DEFINITELY not anything in glass containers. So I have this grocery bag full of precious and irreplaceable homemade jam (and some chestnuts) and WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO WITH IT NOW.

So, I step away from the entrance and consider trying to stow it in some out-of-the-way shadowy corner by Gallery Place. I am ducking behind pillars and stand for a moment in a dark quiet spot and then realize--this being the same week that that guy was mailing package bombs to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton et al--that leaving an unidentified package in an inconspicious location in the middle of a heavily policed neighborhood in downtown DC was not a good idea. So I'm about to just toss it in the trash, when a woman comes up to me and says,

"I'm not the kind of person who normally does this" [yeah, right, I think] "but I'm homeless, but I'm also a vegetarian, and at the shelter they always have ham and cheese sandwiches but they never have peanut butter and jelly or anything that I can eat...."
I look at her and said..."Ok, hear me out, because I'm about to make you a strange proposition. I've got this bag of homemade jams and they won't let me take it into the arena and I was about to throw it away. You are welcome to them, and I can give you five bucks to help with the peanut butter and bread part. There's one of them that has bacon in it, we'll just pick that one out and set it aside."
in other words
This is just to say
I donated
the plum jams
that were in
my bag

and that I
hoped
to give
to my friend

Forgive me
if you just wanted cash
also, this one
has bacon
posted by drlith at 6:29 PM on December 9, 2018 [38 favorites]


I was serving a meal to some people experiencing homelessness recently, and a rather young woman, after explaining her green bean allergy to us and getting her chili, asked us what a pedophile was. We just weren’t expecting that, and I kind of froze. The woman next to me said “someone who hurts children.” - and I thought that was kind of missing some important info in the definition, but my mother raised me not to talk about pedophelia at the dinner table, so I remained quiet.
“Just children?”
“Yes.”
“That’s weird.”
“Yes.”
She went to eat her chili.

It’s probably not the weirdest interaction I’ve had with a stranger, but it is the most recent.
posted by greermahoney at 6:53 PM on December 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


I’m usually very, very shy so I’m always a little taken aback each time strangers interact with me. As anxiety-inducing those times are, though, I actually appreciate them too.

Last summer, I was on a date when I noticed a slightly older couple at the table beside us looking at what I ordered. The lady finally asked what I was (I guess) blatantly enjoying and I ended up offering them some of it. That started a lengthy conversation between the four of us. We exchanged names, but I don’t think anyone really bothered to remember any of them. They gave us plenty of restaurant recommendations in the area, discussed results of their and their friends’ 23andMe tests (!), and told us stories about their different adventures and shenanigans. My date and I, both naturally quiet people, ended up listening more than we talked, but I think we both appreciated the diversion from the usual third date getting-to-know-you awkwardness. I also remember thinking how these people were so... New York. Like characters from a Woody Allen movie crossed with a Seinfeld episode.

A couple of months later, I was at an F train station in BK, on my way home after what would end up being my last date with the same man. I was so sad and lost in thought that it took me a few seconds to realize that I was weeping and that, to my utter embarrassment, a lady was walking to me, asking me if I were okay.

Ever since I moved to NY, I’ve had to listen to visiting friends and family complain about how rude New Yorkers are. I mean, I get it- everybody walks fast, people wouldn’t say hello, and nobody has time to wait around for tourists checking their maps and blocking the sidewalks (Yep, I’ve lived here a long time.). Honestly, though, I’ve always thought that the kindest strangers I’ve encountered, I’ve met in NY.
posted by theappleonatree at 7:38 PM on December 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


This is a bittersweet memory now, because it was something from early on with the man who I think was the love of my life and ultimately broke my heart.

But early on we were super-smitten. He lived about ten blocks from me here in this neighborhood and a mutual friend introduced us by chance one day. He worked from home and lived alone, and I had my temp day job and a roommate, so usually we'd be at his place for our overnights and then he'd walk me to my building in the early morning, where I would shower and get dressed for work.

One morning, only a couple weeks into things, he was walking me home in the early morning and we were giggling and giddy, arms around each other, half-awake and bashful but happy, stealing the occasional giggly kiss. And an older woman, also up early, passed us on the sidewalk; she'd been watching us as she approached, and as she passed us, she beamed fondly at us and said, "you two make a lovely couple." We giggled and thanked her, and after giving each other some bashful glances for a few minutes, kissed again.

She was right; we did. He just forgot that one day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 PM on December 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


I’ve always thought that the kindest strangers I’ve encountered, I’ve met in NY.

As a first-time tourist in Manhattan in the early 00's, I too found New Yorkers could be surprisingly friendly and helpful.

My girlfriend and I had bought tickets good for X number of bus rides, but one evening I stepped onto a bus only to find out I'd used up all my rides. Knowing the stereotypical reputation of the city's residents* I was doing my best not to be an irritating redneck, so I immediately tried to shoo my girlfriend and myself off the bus so as not to waste everyone's time. But the driver good-naturedly waved us on anyway, after which some of the passengers piped up to let us know the nearest places to buy more tickets. I was amazed.

(I was even more amazed to discover, relative country bumpkin though I was, how much I actually enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. In hindsight I realize that was probably partly due to it being a far more fun place to visit than to live in, but still.)

*I heard a joke (or true anecdote?) years and years ago about someone who was driving around Manhattan trying to find a particular address. The driving directions they'd been given included a parking garage as a nearby visual landmark. After driving in circles fruitlessly for 15 or 20 minutes, they got the attention of a man briskly striding along the sidewalk in a business suit and carrying a briefcase - they figured such a person would likely be knowledgeable and helpful. The driver asked the man "Do you know where So-and-So parking garage is?" To which the pedestrian gestured furiously and replied, "Fuck you, park in New Jersey!!"
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:31 PM on December 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've been called many things, but I think that may be a first for "inimitable"!

One of the guys who works at the liquor store near my house looks a little like you and is also named Greg. So yeah, people try, but they'll never succeed.
posted by bendy at 8:56 PM on December 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


Flattery will get you everywhere. But imitating me is pretty useless.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:30 PM on December 9, 2018


British people always ask me for directions, even when I'm in the UK and am in fact personally lost.

...I do not know, nor have I ever known, exactly where Maida Vale is and at this point I'm basically afraid to figure it out. Why is it always Maida Vale? I've always thought I must look like someone else (or perhaps there's an obscure UK joke I'm missing), because if I set foot in London I'll get asked how to get to Maida Vale at some point.

I once got asked how someone could get home to Maida Vale when I was in Birmingham, I am not joking.

(mind, I was standing at the train station, but still!)
posted by aramaic at 10:45 PM on December 9, 2018 [7 favorites]


Ok, I seem to have a knack for celebrity random encounters. Maybe it is because I can recognize them out of context. So about a year ago, I was at one of the three Phish I attended out of the 13 they played at Madison Square Garden. I have a friend in the music business that knows Trey so we get access laminates and go backstage. We are in a small room with all sorts of food and drink. Trey walks through and I say hello, but that is not the story. There is an old man in the room standing by himself. I kept looking over and no one was talking to him. He has gotten past several layers of security. He has the laminate as well as the wrist band and the stamp. He must be somebody.

I go over to him and strike up a conversation. He needed very little prompt. He starts telling me about concerts from 1973,77,and on and on. Zeppelin at the Garden, the Stones somewhere else, etc. He is talking about shows from so long ago that I ask him how old he is. I think he said 85. He was certainly 80 or older. I told him that I hoped to still be going to shows at his age.

Then it hit me. I think you had to be of a certain age in the NY area. I asked him, "Are you Ron Delsner?" "Yes I am. Thank you for remembering me." "How could I forget?" I went on to tell him I thought he was one of the giants of the NY music business, etc. I have never seen an old man so happy. I got the impression that the current promoters gave him a ticket out of homage but wanted nothing more to do with him. I talked to him for 15 minutes. I excused myself to go into the arena to see the show. "Nice meeting you kid. Call me RD."

Fast forward to last weekend. I am in the same room at the Dave Mathews concert. Sure enough there is Ron Delsner in the corner. I was talking to some other people and did not go over to him for about 15 minutes. I went over to him and figured I would re-introduce myself. I get about 5 feet away from him when he says, "I thought you would never come over. I have not seen you since that concert last year."

I was floored he remembered me. He was fuzzy on the details, but he remembered. On the way out he looked back at me and said, "See you next year."

I also once ran into Warren Haynes in a grocery store. I went up to him and asked if he was Warren. I am. What are you doing here? I gotta eat too. I ended up being introduced to his son and talking to him about Greg Allman who had recently died.
posted by AugustWest at 11:39 PM on December 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


Not a stranger, but a funny occurrence just today. At work the alarms go on at six (it's a school and we can leave at approx 4:30, and I'm usually there bustling out just before, but I've been trying to be a bit earlier.) Anyway, it's 5 to six, the phone rings. I hesitate. Should I pick it up? What if I get caught in a long phone call with a parent? I pick up, and it's my colleague! She has left a large frozen lasagna in the fridge. I offer to take it to her- so I ended up walking across the supermarket car-park with a lasagna in my hands. I think it would have been a funny picture!
posted by freethefeet at 2:16 AM on December 10, 2018 [2 favorites]


But imitating me is pretty useless.

That's the definition of inimitable.

posted by bendy at 2:34 AM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


On long flights, I usually say hello to my seat mates and see if they want to chat. It occasionally backfires spectacularly, but sometimes I get a really nice conversation out of it. Once, I was chatting with a Canadian on a flight to Zürich, and we were talking about how Europeans really don’t get distance. Then she told me about the time she and her husband were in Germany, and a couple they were eating with said”Oh, we know some Canadians, maybe you know them too!” And she and her husband were just getting ready to explain that Canada is, in fact, A Big Place....

Then she looked at me a bit ruefully and said “As it turned out, we knew them.”
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:00 AM on December 10, 2018 [22 favorites]


That is a supremely Canadian story, GenjiandProust.

I am longing for a stranger to show up sometime when my band plays and fall in love with my voice and become my ... hopefully lives pretty nearby so we can spend an awful lot of time together but still have our privacy person. As it is my stranger stories usually involve harassment. Poop.
posted by wellred at 5:41 AM on December 10, 2018 [2 favorites]


Was just thinking, this might kind of, sort of fit here, but maybe not. Anyway. We've been kind of trying for a kid this year (o hai ambivalence) and we have a name picked out for a girl which came to us really early and was very specifically The One. It's not an invented name, like it's a name you'd hear and go "ok yes that's a name" rather than "huh?", but it's not something I've ever known anyone to have or can think of any person called that. Anyway, as some months went by and nothing was happening I started (half) jokingly calling out to her, like I'd say in my head "Alright [name] get a move on" or "Hey [name] we're waiting to meet you" and it became like a little thing between us that I was putting it out into the Universe that it was time to send her our way. So one day we saw we were getting new neighbors, and then we were walking out of our house and there was a young woman moving some stuff in next door. And she stopped and said "Oh hi, I'm moving in. Nice to meet you. I'm [name]." And I'm sure she thought we were strange because we both did this double take and looked at each other. And then said oh how nice to meet you, give us a shout if you need anything etc, and then moved away. And probably before she was even out of earshot I said to him "How strange!" and I hope she didn't hear me and think I meant her. But genuinely she is the only person I can think of who is called that. So like the Universe sent me a [name], but got it wrong, and now probably thinks it's work is done ffs. But she is a lovely [name] and has been no trouble and we think we're probably calling time on the whole trying thing, so you know it worked out ok in the end.
posted by billiebee at 6:00 AM on December 10, 2018 [18 favorites]


A good friend and I used to go for long walks at a local nature preserve. There was a tree-lined promenade on the way out, with picnic tables, and one day we walked by a young couple who were spreading out a picnic, complete with a bottle of wine. It took us a while to amble past, and during this time, one of the couple realized that they didn't have a corkscrew. I could see that they were very disappointed, like their little event had just run off the rails. We exchanged ohhh nooos and went on our way back to the car. When we got in to the car, I saw that I actually had a corkscrew in the center console, so my friend grabbed it and ran back to the couple's table, leaping and spinning like Ted Shawn, and dropped the corkscrew on their table without a word.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 6:11 AM on December 10, 2018 [15 favorites]


Yesterday, I was heading toward a popular local park to participate in a Pokemon Go raid. I got there, walked along the lake, and was meeting up with my fellow (adult) PoGo players, when this kid, about six or seven runs up to our group. He's there with his mom and his sister, and his mom is giving him an encouraging look.

That's enough to get the kid going. "What are you doing? You're playing pokemon?! Are you gonna do this raid? Can I help?"

We all nod and say of course you can, so the kid eagerly hops into the raid lobby with us. So he hops in, after his mother give us a concerned "he won't mess this up?" We all shake our heads and say it's absolutely fine, and quickly start helping the kid pick his team to bring into the battle. He's still grinning his head off.

The pokemon raid boss is quickly dispatched of, and we all head to the catching portion of the challenge. Kid catches his Cresselia on the first throw, with one of his brand spanking new golden razzberries. He starts screaming in delight, and we're all grinning while we're trying to catch the pokemon ourselves.

Afterward, I comment that it's good he caught it on the first throw, but if he hadn't, maybe I would've tried to help him throw if he have let me. My friend says "Well, it took me ten out of the twelve balls I had to catch mine, so maybe he should have just thrown for me, too." I realize it took me about the same to catch mine, so I concede the point.

Anyway, you go, little kid. That amount of joy was a delight to witness.
posted by PearlRose at 7:30 AM on December 10, 2018 [10 favorites]


I'm doing Skype a Scientist and I just got off the call with a group of 6th graders in Round Top, Texas who were enthralled by how long orangutans' childhoods are, and the idea of studying monkey poop and looking at monkey butts to tell which monkey the poop came from. I love kids and science and monkeys!
posted by ChuraChura at 8:38 AM on December 10, 2018 [19 favorites]


MetaTalk: studying monkey poop and looking at monkey butts to tell which monkey the poop came from
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:50 AM on December 10, 2018 [4 favorites]


I had just finished graduate school. I couldn’t wait to start my life again. It was the first week of the new year, maybe the Epiphany (i’m a recovering Catholic), and my little Scion was packed to the brim — clothing, computers, music, books, and my favourite pans. I’ve decided to drive to LA to find my fortune, or at least a job.

The journey was everything I’d wanted from a road trip. Lashing vicious snowstorm rose as I left Chicago. It’s a mercy I didn’t get into an accident. But once I got past St. Louis, the days became sharp and bright with that pale blue sky which happens in January.

I took my time, stopped in lots of little places, knowing I’d never do this again. So many stories to tell.

Bright and early one morning, I stopped for coffee and donuts. The gas station was filled with big pickup trucks, well-used and practical looking, filled with gear. In comparison, my Scion looked like pocket change.

I’m a short, plump Asian woman with a round cheery face. Babies laugh at me, people talk at me, and that morning was no different. The station cafe is rammed; every booth full, the kitchen pumping out huge plates of food. It smells great and i’m enjoying the sound of pleasant voices talking about the upcoming day. Suddenly, a tall rangy fellow comes up behind me in line and drawls “you from around here”?

My hair is waist length and deep fuscia, i’m wearing Doc Martens and a motorcycle jacket, and driving Japanese box on wheels. So I laugh and say nah, I’m going west to begin again. I’m hoping he won’t hit on me, but I’m just a gateway. He and his pals want to check out my car.

Out they tumble onto the forecourt, questions galore, admiration of the mileage, and big waves as I head out.
posted by lemon_icing at 9:34 AM on December 10, 2018 [14 favorites]


My father has a supreme knack for striking up conversations with strangers in such a way that they find it charming instead of annoying. Once my parents came to visit and I brought them to Ellis Island, a trip which required us to take a ferry from Manhattan to Liberty Island first, and then Ellis Island itself. The ferry just loops around those three stops continuously all day, and passengers can get on and off whenever they like; we decided we were going to skip the Statue of Liberty, so we just stayed on the ferry at Liberty Island, waiting the allotted 20 minutes before it moved again. Dad got bored and struck up a conversation with the captain, who was grabbing a smoke break on deck; bonding with him about boats, asking him about the islands in the harbor, and eventually got him going on a story about a teenage prank he pulled where he and his friends snuck out to Ellis island once in a kayak or something. The captain got so into it he was very nearly late for departing for the next stop.

And then their very first time visiting me in New York, when I was in college, the three of us went to a restaurant (we ended up eating at Bouley for free, but that's a WHOLE other story). We hailed a cab to bring us back, first dropping me off at my dorm and then my parents at their hotel. Dad got the cabbie going in a conversation as we drove, and they were talking a mile a minute when they dropped me off first. My parents told me later that when they got to the hotel, they were so caught up in conversation that the cabbie turned the meter off and kept talking with them for like 15 minutes - and then finally when Dad went to settle up, the cabbie said "you know what, this is on me."

And the coup was at an Italian restaurant we discovered during another of their visits; this great little Italian place on Bleecker Street, where we all really dug the food. But we were one of only a handful of customers, and the waiters all seemed to be in a good mood, so Dad started talking with them to join in the fun. I think by the end of the meal Dad was trading fish recipes with one of the waiters - about a dish that wasn't even on the menu, it was like the waiter's Nonna's recipe or something - and my parents gave the guy their address. They got a Christmas card from the restaurant every year for the next several years, and then when the restaurant finally closed its doors, they sent my parents one of the paintings that they'd had on their wall.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:44 AM on December 10, 2018 [11 favorites]


I was in Paris in 1996 hanging out around the Eiffel Tower... I pulled out a hackey sack and started kicking it around. In a manner of a few minutes, there was a circle of strangers from literally all over the world bonding over kicking that little bag to one another. It was a really cool moment that I think about often.
posted by Jacob G at 10:54 AM on December 10, 2018 [7 favorites]


I was hiking alone in Pinnacles National Park and heading into the lower entrance of the Balconies Caves when off the side of the trail (next to an oddly horizontal tree trunk), about 10 feet away, there was a couple that just had a..... sadness... about them, who were in a hug. As I was walking by they looked up and acknowledged me. I just blurted out asking if they wanted more hugs. They thanked me for the offer but said no. I spread my arms out and said "Ok, group hug from afar." and kept on hiking.

I got through the caves and was coming back on the upper trail when I saw them again, coming towards me. I jokingly said, "Hey, it is my hug people!". They came running up to me and said they loved my offer for a hug on the trail and decided they wanted more hugs and we had a big group hug right there on that section of the trail (much to the confusion of the other hikers around us).
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 11:20 AM on December 10, 2018 [8 favorites]


I witnessed a little exchange about a year ago which still makes me smile.

I work at a Big 10 University, my building is pretty close to the football stadium. A uniformed member of the U marching band was placidly walking across the street wearing a massive sousaphone - possibly jaywalking- and a car was waiting for him to cross.

Car: Beep!
Sousaphone player, pausing in the middle of the road to face the car: ffffHOOOOONK!

The car did not beep again and the sousaphone player finished crossing.
posted by castlebravo at 11:27 AM on December 10, 2018 [27 favorites]


Just this last weekend, we are at a bar. Guy walks over to me who kind of looks familiar.

"Hey, how you doing, been a while!"
Handshake.
"Matt isn't doing so well. He's sick again."
"I'll tell him I saw you and you send your best wishes."
"Gotta run, nice seeing you again."

And he walks away. I didn't say a word. I don't know any Matt.
posted by Splunge at 11:57 AM on December 10, 2018 [3 favorites]


I was 18 or 19 and in University. I and a few people I new from college were on the free shuttle. As we were talking, a guy looking to be in his 60's or older interrupted us to ask (while looking at only me), "Sorry to interrupt, but I love accents, and could I try to guess where you're from?" I said sure, as being from Wisconsin, many of the local Californians thought my accent amusing. "Oh thanks! Can you say $somePhraseThatINoLongerCanRemember?" And I did.

And he thought for a good ten seconds, visibily rolling over my phrase in his head. apparently he gave up a bit, "Ok, I need a hint; East or Western Europe?" It took about a full minute for me to (mostly) convince him that yes, I was from the US.

As I'd related this tale to Ms. nobeagle, she'll sometimes tease me about my Eastern European accent.

---

A few years later and I was hitchhiking from Seattle to LA, and somewhere in northern California someone picked me up. Before I got in the car, he warned me that it would probably smell pretty bad, as he'd found a dead mountain lion while camping and was taking it home (in the trunk) to clean up. And yes, there was definitely a smell of death in the car, but hey, the guy didn't give off any hinky vibes so that was about a 45-60 minute ride I got out of him. Ms. nobeagle had commented that since I didn't actually see the mountain lion, all I know is there was something dead in back.

Related to that same trip, 7 times in Washington State, my ride ended very quickly (once only one city block) when I declined to give/receive oral sex with the driver. Outside of Washington state I didn't recieve a single request.
posted by nobeagle at 11:59 AM on December 10, 2018 [3 favorites]


So, I am a young professional in the early thirties, I work in Montreal and a man comes to me in the street to invite me to go for a coffee. He actually ran to tie me up because I was running, being late. I kindly replied that I am flattered by the invitation but that I have a boyfriend and he would not appreciate that I go to have a coffee with another man, and he tells me that I only have to not tell him about it! I finally tell him that I'm happy as a couple and that I'm not interested. He ends up telling me that he understands, then, he explains to me that he is a beginner photographer and that he would be glad that I agree to pose for him, that he looks for models to make pictures of legs and topless ... Seriously?
posted by NathalieBou at 12:46 PM on December 10, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oh I do have another stranger story! And it's an Africa story, to boot.

On a motorcycle trip across Africa, my travel mate and I were resting under a tree somewhere in Chad. We were sitting on the ground next to the motorbikes, drinking some water, and had just eaten the last bit of food we had, which was fine as we'd be in the next city in two hours or so.
Then we saw a man walking along the same trail we had been following, heading in the same direction as we were. Apparently he, too, was heading for the city... but on foot. We greeted each other, as one does, and without stopping he asked us whether we had anything to eat? Truthfully, we said that we did not have anything, so sorry.

And as he kept walking, he pulled something out of his pocket and lobbed it at us. It was a small bag of unpeeled peanuts.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:30 PM on December 10, 2018 [8 favorites]


Nobeagle you just inspired me to google "Wisconsin accent" and find this clip, for the curious. Although I am unable to distinguish some of the sounds.
posted by Coaticass at 1:51 PM on December 10, 2018


I do bicycle touring, and over the years as I've ridden across and around the USA, I've had many amusing/odd/weird encounters with local people in the mostly rural areas and small towns I prefer riding through. The most recent one was this October on a random, week-long tour.

On the first day, I stopped to talk to a man sitting outside an old, closed country store. I was expecting a brief chat, but I got more than I bargained for:

"I've lost 230 lbs in the last two years... I weigh 250 now... I walk 10 or 15 miles every day... I walk through the fields and on the roads... everyone knows me around here... I used to take 40 medicines... I've traveled in 48 states, but there's only one place I'd rather live in than Robards [Here I was expecting him to say Florida - my wife thinks it's funny that virtually every Kentuckian she's met loves to go to Florida, and she would have found this amusing - but the man surprised me by saying "Pigeon Forge, Tennessee"]

He continued:

"I had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever twice... I had the highest temperature ever recorded of anyone in Kentucky... I had seven ruptured disks... I worked 120 hours a week - farm work, manual labor... I have a soprano singing voice... I've been asked to sing in gospel groups... at church they say many have been saved after hearing me sing... I mowed that yard over there, after it got to be about a foot high... I mowed it with an $89 push mower... the man said I'd never get it mowed... when I was done he gave me $100...

The talk then turned to an uncle of his, the inheritance from whom was apparently the source of the man's financial independence:

"My uncle sold me his farms for one dollar for tax purposes... his house did not have an indoor bathroom... he always pooped outside... He would shit in the parking lot of the bank and wipe his ass with grass... I would say 'Uncle, they are going to have you arrested', but he said 'Why, I'm not doing nothing wrong'... Later I found out that he owned controlling stock in the bank, which is why they never did anything about it... He would keep chicken sitting out on a shelf in his house, unrefrigerated... he never got sick eating it... They put him in the nursing home, but I broke him outta there, and he lived four more years...After he died I found old spark plugs in his house with diamonds hidden in them...

During all this, I said very little except for an occasional "huh", or "that's interesting."

Finally, I told him that I needed to get back on the road, and he told me that I should stop by again and he'd let me look inside the old store, which was now his residence. "My woman's asleep in there now, but come by some other time and I'll show you around."

One of the reasons I love bike touring is the chance to meet people I undoubtedly would never interact with in regular life.
posted by JeffL at 4:53 PM on December 10, 2018 [8 favorites]


I was supposed to meet a friend at her apartment just off Polk st. in SF after playing a show at Kimo's around the corner. She'd invited me to spend the night, and my other option was taking the bus back to the East Bay from 1st and Mission, which was always a . . . memorable experience at three in the morning.

But she's not answering her phone, and I'm kinda just wandering a bit, assuming that she'll probably get hold of me shortly. I see that there's this big stack of framed pictures leaning up against a streetlight, so I start poking through them. After a while this thirty-something, slightly haggard white lady comes up and also starts going through them. We chat for a minute, then she finds this big heavy 6 x 4 foot framed oil painting toward the back of the stack that "my girlfriend would *love* this. Can you help me carry it up to her apartment?"

Fuck it, I'm killing time, why not. Apartment ends up being one of those amazing hotel-room-style SF apartments that's been done up kinda like a dressing room, with red and black trim and lights around the mirrors. And girlfriend is a riot, this trans AfAm woman from Texas who apparently finds everyone delightful, has a joke for everything, and is more-or-less continually smoking crack mixed with cigarette ash out of a big Graphics bong. I never quite worked out whether she was dealing or pimping or just providing moral support to the three or four working girls who trickled through to give her money over the next half hour, but everybody was super-nice to me, despite me being this skinny weird punk with a shaved head and a military jacket.

I spent the whole time just sort of in awe of her before my friend finally called and let me know she was home, whereupon I scuttled off, with the knowledge that every apartment in every building around me might hold such incredible characters.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:17 PM on December 10, 2018 [9 favorites]


I do have one more because Kid Ruki won't let me forget it.

Two years ago, Kid Ruki and I went on a tour of the LDS Temple in Hartford, CT, during the open house before it was dedicated. I was, no surprise, dealing with some sort of health issue at the time and on a medical leave, so when we got to the Sealing Room, I gratefully took a seat. Our guide for the room talked about time and eternity, then gave a quick rundown of the sealing ceremony. "And the bride and groom sit there," she said, gesturing with a sweep of her arm to the couch upon which I was sitting. Next to a 13 year old boy. That I knew was 13 because even though we were an hour and a half from home, Kid Ruki had gone to camp with him at the Y.

The boy and I both blushed furiously as the rest of tour group looked at us sitting on the couch together and burst into laughter. That poor kid.

My anxiety was much worse then and I discreetly took an Ativan before we got to the Celestial Room, but when Kid Ruki wants to be cruel to me (which is rare) she brings up my boy groom.
posted by Ruki at 5:59 PM on December 10, 2018 [5 favorites]


and looking at monkey butts to tell which monkey the poop came from

What gives it away? I am thinking each anus creates unique poop patterns, but it can't be that simple.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:40 PM on December 10, 2018


I discreetly took an Ativan before we got to the Celestial Room

Something tells me you weren't the last one to do so. And it makes the room so much more Celestial!
posted by elsietheeel at 7:45 PM on December 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


oh, I just meant watching monkeys' butts until they poop, and then you know who it came from and where to find it on the forest floor.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:19 PM on December 10, 2018 [9 favorites]


I’ve told both of these stories at other times on mefi but not together, so why not here?

-After my first serious breakup, I tried to distract myself by going out to a punk show put on by some old acquaintances. The friend I went with had to leave early, and the show-runners were a) busy and b) people I knew through an old dysfunctional job, which made conversation awkward. So there I was, crying outside a club I’d last been to with my ex, when two young drunk women come up to ask me what’s wrong and comfort me, then immediately decide they need to teach me to swagger like a drag king. We spent the rest of the night outside swaggering away on the sidewalk, I ended up getting their numbers as I left, and the next day we all took a road trip to a workshop about strap-ons in the next city over.

(We also hung out at our houses a few times after, but when we were sober and not doing an organized activity it quickly became apparent that we didn’t have a ton in common. I should have let things be after the magic of drunk swaggering and sex toys).



-Two years later, new city: While I was walking around distraught after a friend’s sudden death, I ran into a mother and child picking wild berries in a park in my neighborhood. I asked the child what they were, and she told me they were juneberries and offered me one from her bowl. They were delicious. I had to leave soon after this interaction and never learned mom or kid’s name, but I came back to those trees several times in the following days and picked bowls full of berries as a meditative exercise, eventually winding up with enough to make juneberry crumble bars for my friend’s memorial. I’ve picked them almost every year since, and every year someone stops to ask what kind of berries they are. I don’t even remember what the original mom and kid looked like, but I keep hoping I’ll run into them some year and feel some psychic connection.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:22 PM on December 10, 2018 [9 favorites]


Can we please get "loves" in addition to "favorites"?
posted by bendy at 10:35 PM on December 10, 2018 [2 favorites]


Once upon a time at an un-godly hour in the morning I trotted/jaywalked in the darkness to the gas station across the street. The fuel truck was there refilling the tanks and blaring over the radio in the night was Midnight Star - No Parking On The Dance Floor (Official Music Video). I was totally grooving when I walked around the tanker truck and locked eyes with the truck driver who was doing the same grooving. We danced for a moment, shared a silent high-five, and continued on with our life.

I'm a small-ish white guy and he was a large-ish bald black guy (who in my mind would have the nickname of 'Curly" or "Q"). But at that moment in the darkness we were both just smilin' and groovin'. "No Parking on the Dance Floor."
posted by zengargoyle at 2:06 AM on December 11, 2018 [7 favorites]


Many years ago when I was lean and pure I was walking the university campus with my best friend at the time. Up ahead, coming towards us was an extremely attractive girl.
Paul exhales or mutters ‘wow’ or some other discreet noise to make sure I’m not looking away, but this girl is really pretty and there is no chance I would be looking anywhere else.
As we pass I give a little smile, but I’m still shy and she is well out of my league.
“Hi bystander!” She says with a smile as she passes.
Paul grabs my arm and is looking at me with his jaw hanging open, but I am too stunned to do anything but keep walking as I have no recollection of ever seeing her before.
I *should* have run back and got acquainted but I was flummoxed.
posted by bystander at 3:10 AM on December 11, 2018


MetaTalk: watching monkeys' butts until they poop
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:37 AM on December 11, 2018 [3 favorites]


At about 8PM we were driving down Telegraph in Oakland and right around MacArthur we see this woman running, with a dude chasing her and yelling about half a block back (we saw the dude first, but sadly a dude running down the street and yelling was not uncommon along that particular stretch ca. 2004).

Without skipping a beat, my girlfriend pulls over and yells "get in." Woman gets in, thanks us profusely, explains that she has a place she can go he doesn't know about. This place happens to be conveniently on our way. We drop her off, and that's it.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:08 AM on December 11, 2018 [11 favorites]


My favorite strangers in public interaction happened about 15 years ago. I was traveling through China, and made the mistake of showing up in Beijing during the New Year with no forward tickets. Given my language and social skills, that meant an extra week in Beijing before I had a realistic chance at getting train tickets to anywhere. As a friendly (naive?) looking white guy with no language skills, I was an immediate target for every beggar, salesman, and grifter in town. (I don't blame the beggars, but I still got tired of talking to them.) At popular tourist sites, I was turning down "art students" who wanted me to see their work at least once a minute. I eventually switched to Spanish, and it still didn't help. A really nice camera had already been cut from my belt in a crowd, so I was on guard.

I found my way to a large park in a not very touristy southern part of the city. I sat on a bench and was looking at a map. A very old man in a business suit and carrying a cane walked up to me and sat down just a bit closer than necessary. I immediately suspected I was being set up for a scam. He started telling me about his family and his life. He's been a civil servant working in some diplomatic function and had therefore learned several languages. He told me about his home a few km away, and his kids, and how much he loved his city. I told him about my life as a grad student. He helped me with the pronounciation of some of the twenty Mandarin words I knew. Every ten minutes, salespeople would walk up and try to sell me something. He'd hear them out and then kindly explain that we weren't interested. They all left with a smile. The whole time, I kept waiting for the scam to materialize. ("If I only had $2000, my family could leave the country and reclaim my uncle's fortune.") But, it never came. After about an hour he thanked me for the talk, said he would be late for dinner if he didn't leave soon, and walked away using his cane.

I haven't had the chance to pay it back in full yet.
posted by eotvos at 10:14 AM on December 11, 2018 [6 favorites]


This fall I went to a sci fi convention about four hours away from my hometown, and the last thing I did before leaving was to buy some merch from one of my favorite comic book artists. While waiting for him to finish up with other customers, I struck up a conversation with a couple of con-goers. We had a nice, friendly few minutes, and then I was on my way to pack up my car and head out.

Two hours down the road, I started feeling sleepy. I had to pull off the road somewhere to take, at the very least, a cat nap. Finally I saw a sign for an exit with a gas station, which would have to do. It was sketchy looking with a big overgrown lot at the back, and no customers as far as I could tell. I pulled around to the side of the building, made sure my doors were locked, and leaned back to take a nap.

I woke up a few minutes later to see a man peering at me through my window. When he saw I was awake he scuttled away. I tried to shake off my sleep as well as I could, and sat up, feeling a little scared.

Then I turned around and saw the Ecto-1, the Ghostbusters car, parked a few spots from mine in the parking lot. INSTANT RELIEF. Con people were here! My people!

Of course the car belonged to the nice couple I'd spoken to in line at the convention. I ran into them in front of the drinks cooler, and it turns out that we live in the same town. Now we're Facebook friends. We had to be, it was Fate.
posted by zoetrope at 1:20 PM on December 11, 2018 [5 favorites]


Zoetrope's story reminds me of one more odd encounter I had with a stranger:

My mother got invited to the wedding of one of her students, and my father was very ill by that time so I went as her plus 1. The student was marrying into a very wealthy Orthodox family, so the wedding was a giant and pretty ostentatious affair at the Waldorf Hotel in Manhattan. By my count, there were at least 600 guests (counted by noting number of tables and number of people at each table).

The wedding was on a high floor, so we had to take elevators up to the reception. Because there were so many people waiting to get up in fairly old elevators, there was, I kid you not, a 20-minute wait to get into an elevator. As I was standing around, I saw a sign in the lobby that said something like "Black Tie Required after 6 PM." So I turned to the guy in back of me and said, "Oh look, black tie required. You know, once Harpo Marx got an invitation to an affair that said 'black tie only,' so he showed up wearing a black tie but nothing else" (a story I actually heard, although it's probably apocryphal but anyway). The guy stared at me incredulously without a word, like, "Who the hell are you and why are you telling me this stupid story?" I just sort of laughed weakly and turned back around, and thought to myself, "Ok, well, there are 600 people here and I guess one of them thinks I'm an idiot. Oh well."

So we finally get up to the tables. Guess who's at my table, and guess who the only available seat is next to? I figured he probably wouldn't even remember, but he said something like, "Oh, you're the Harpo Marx woman." Great. 600 goddamned people at this party and I sit next to the only one who thinks I'm some sort of weirdo. Luckily for me, he turned out to be a lawyer practicing in the state courts and we managed to talk shop all night, so it wound up not being excruciating.
posted by holborne at 2:05 PM on December 11, 2018 [5 favorites]


I've had lots of interesting and weird encounters with strangers, but since it's almost Christmas, I'll share this one:

Late 1990's, I'd gotten burnt out and let go at my job, my marriage was kaput, and I was on my way to see my parents for Christmas break, with my young son. My cranky older daughter was with me, and we were driving her old beat up New Yorker, which had a right headlight that pointed down toward the ditch.

I'd just gone from making $40,000 a year with tons of benefits to being persona non grata in every aspect of my life. I'd had it up to here with doing not just emotional labor, but all the labor. So I was going home for Christmas.

We took the road North, and my daughter was giving me directions, and I kept telling her, look, the highway is East from here, she was a know-it-all, and said we were lost, and I said, we are going East, if we don't run into the highway, we'll run into Lake Michigan, and then the highway sign appeared just then, so she had to stop yelling at me.

We got on the road, made good time to Green Bay, and right after the bridge, it just started pouring snow. I mean, we took the turnoff to 41, came under an overpass, and there was a car on the left side of the road, turtled onto its back. The damned New Yorker was not really equipped for this sort of weather. Further and further North we drove, me peering at the ditch in the dark, my daughter bitching, my son whining, until we got to a small town with a gas station. I had to stop, it was just getting too thick.

I called my Dad, and he advised me not to continue, because their road was covered in ice. It was just a major crappy ice and snow blizzard. My daughter flounced off to sleep in the backseat of the car, and I treated my son to a warmed over gas station hot dog. I didn't have a credit card, so I couldn't stay at the local motel. He started to whine, and I didn't know what to do.

Some silver-haired gent in a tweed jacket walked by us, to get coffee, and I guess we started up a conversation, like "where are you going?" and stuff like that. Or maybe the woman who was at the cash register had talked to him, I don't honestly remember.

All I know is, he said, "I just got done giving a service at the local church, and I'm headed back to the UP, and my church would be glad to pay for a motel room for you and your kids tonight." I was flabbergasted. It wasn't even a lot of money, it was just that I'd been counting on getting to my folks place that night, and I was really worn out. So I accepted, for my kids' sake, and boy, my son had so much fun jumping on the bed. I'd brought his favorite stuffed animals, and he finally settled down and we all got a good night's sleep.

The next day, it was so cold it froze your nose hairs, just walking to the car. But I could see, and we made it the last 30 miles. My Dad asked the name of the minister, so he could send him a check, and my son and I made a Yule log, wrapped in Christmas paper, with all the names of our friends and people we wanted to receive blessings written inside, and burned it in my Dad's Vermont wood stove. I'm not very religious, but I do believe in the good in people, and now I try to pass that kindness on to other people when I can.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:40 PM on December 11, 2018 [14 favorites]


Suddenly a car passes by, and someone yells out the passenger side window: “TOO MUCH GLITTER!”

I love this and also it reminds me of a time in high school when I got ice cream with my then girlfriend, and we were walking down the street in winter in downstate New York with our gloves on, noshing on our cones. A car drives by and the passenger window opens and a man shouts, not jovially, “WHY NOT JUST LOSE THE GLOVES??” and then speeds off. And that was the angriest I’ve ever seen someone about ice cream.
posted by invitapriore at 6:47 PM on December 11, 2018 [6 favorites]


Through my 20s I was regularly told that I looked like a passing stranger's grandchild. Black, white, Chinese, they were thinking of a grandson or a granddaughter, didn't matter.

No singular good story, I just practiced saying that that was a kind thing for them to say and I missed my out-of-state grandparents, and looking at them affectionately, and nodding through anecdotes. Really undercut my attempts to look tough and sophisticated.
posted by clew at 6:59 PM on December 11, 2018 [6 favorites]


Back in '91 I spent a happy summer cycling Alaska, often being away from shops and everything for a couple of weeks at a time. Fruit was a rare commodity. So one day I was at Circle in the very basic store (power had been out for days and all was covered with volcanic Ash - unrelated events).

There was a single orange on a shelf, when I asked was told "that's a dollar" - A dollar for an Orange! I exclaimed (ignorant of bush freight costs), I could have afforded it for sure but ... a lady behind me said she'd buy it for me. I accepted and we had a chat - and the orange was juicy and sweet. The kindness of the lady and the orange stayed with me a long way.
posted by unearthed at 12:30 AM on December 12, 2018 [4 favorites]


As a friendly (naive?) looking white guy with no language skills, I was an immediate target for every beggar, salesman, and grifter in town. ...

I found my way to a large park in a not very touristy southern part of the city. I sat on a bench and was looking at a map. A very old man in a business suit and carrying a cane walked up to me and sat down just a bit closer than necessary. I immediately suspected I was being set up for a scam.


When I was living and working in developing countries I got really good at preemptively fending off all those beggers and people who are trying to get something out of you. But I got a bit too good at it (or got lazy and didn't bother to discern the actual person involved); I still have vivid (and shameful) memories of each of the times I rudely brushed off someone who was purely being friendly. There's a better balance point that I try to hit now, but it is hard and I sometimes still err on the side of brushing people off, which is bad since I always enjoy my interactions with strangers.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:42 AM on December 12, 2018 [1 favorite]


Small town living has its downsides:

Last night I went to a fundraising event at a local brewery. You buys a ticket, you gets all the pizza you can eat (also beer), all the money goes to Paradise Wildfire Relief. I ate all of the pizza (before tonight I was under the assumption that there was no good pizza within 30 miles of here), chatted with a few coworkers who also showed up, got to meet my lieutenant's wife, and left about an hour and a half later.

Now pizza and my digestive system don't always get along, and this morning they REALLY didn't get along, but I still had to drag my sad, gastrointestinally distressed self to work because of all the coworkers who saw me last night and likely would assume I called in sick because I was hung over.

(I have a pizza hangover.)
posted by elsietheeel at 7:03 AM on December 12, 2018 [5 favorites]


So, I dented my car a few months ago. I needed someone to pull the dent out via a suction device or whatever; I recognized that it wouldn't be perfect pulled out, but c'est la vie. A dent place refused to repair it, saying that since it couldn't be perfect it would have to go to a full body shop. Oy. I'd been hoping to pay around $300, not the $900+ for full body work.

A few weeks ago I'm at a traffic light with my elderly mother, taking her to the BJs Wholesale in the next town over. An SUV next to me shouts at me, and I roll down my window. "I can fix your dent for you!" the guy says. Really?!

Pull over and I'll give you a quote, he says.

It's broad daylight and I'm interested, so I pull over.

Yup, I can pull that out for you for $300 cash, he says. Where are you going now? If you're doing an errand, I can fix it while you wait.

Do you have a business card? I ask.

I have one in my car, I'll get it for you in a minute.

My mother, bless her, is completely silent and wide-eyed during the whole encounter.

He goes on about how he uses the best tools and is very efficient and will only do the best for me because you don't want a dent like that, right?? Right? A nice car like that [2013 Ford Escape], you only want the best! And the best is me!

I hope I'm not being scammed but I want my dent fixed and I won't give him money before the work is done, though that voice of "even smart people get scammed!!" is screaming through my head.

I'm going to the BJs, I say.

Perfect! he oozes. I'll follow you there, and fix it while you're shopping, because you should have peace of mind while shopping!

I drive to the BJs, making no effort to ensure that he's still behind me. We'll see, we'll see, we'll see, I keep repeating to my mother.

We get to the BJs; mom quickly vanishes into the store. Do you have a card? I ask again. Oh, right, I'll go look for it, he says. His girlfriend is in the car. He comes back saying he is out of cards, but will give me his phone number verbally later.

He gets some tools, and fixes the dent, all the time gushing about how he's going to take care of me and can fix the other scratches on my car too for additional money. No, thanks, I say.

He finishes. There! Isn't that beautiful work?

Yes, thank you.

Are you going to tell all your friends about me?

Well...

If I give you my phone number, will you tell all your friends about me?

He verbally gives me the phone number, which is a local phone number. Says that he's a "mobile body shop," and operates in the parking lot of the local Home Depot. (With no business card.)

He walks with me to the BJs ATM. What did I quote you for, $350? He asks.

No, $300.

Oh, that's right! You're right of course, the customer is always right. Such a lovely lady, you're right.

I hand him the $300, counting out every single $20. He cheerfully says thank you, says again that I should tell others about him, and drives away.

And my dent is fixed the way I want it. And he didn't have to pay any taxes or what have you. A win-win.
posted by Melismata at 9:57 AM on December 12, 2018 [8 favorites]


My husband and were on our second visit to Cork city, and although we'd stayed at this B'n'B before, we couldn't find it! It was a Friday afternoon (around 4-ish), so we pulled into a gas station (we needed gas) and husband asked a truckload of young men if they knew where this place was. "Of course! we'll guide ya right to it!" was the answer. So for the next 30 minutes - in rush hour traffic - this car of strangers made sure we got to our B'n'B. As we approached it, they pointed and took off, waving. No chance to pay, just a promise to pay it forward.
posted by dbmcd at 11:02 AM on December 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


Last week a young man outside the Target told me I looked awesome, "like Spider-Man!" I had just finished strapping a pack of toilet paper on top of my rack and panniers and was about to bike home in a bit of snow, so maybe it was the goggles I was putting on. Otherwise I dunno what's so Spidey-like about a middle-aged woman in a dress but I'll take it.

With great power comes great responsibility (Luke 12:48).
posted by asperity at 11:35 AM on December 12, 2018 [7 favorites]


So I have been doing a deep dive practice into regulation of the nervous system as part of my professional and personal life. It has changed EVERYTHING for me, no lie.

Last December I went to see the Mountain Goats play at Holocene here in Portland. John was doing a solo show that was a benefit, so it was a no holds barred, play a lot of old songs, high energy kind of show. I briefly talked to a really lovely woman standing next to me about various random things, and then we stood together for the rest of the show. At some point, John started playing "Snow Crush Killing Song." (Sample lyric: "I know you're changing/ Damn you/ I know you're changing/ Goddamn you for that.") He began the first guitar strums of it, and I heard her breathing change suddenly, and I realized she was either about to start sobbing (not an unknown occurrence at a Mountain Goats show) or hyperventilating (less frequent.)

I had the thought, this is a regulation moment! and I caught her eye as she was really starting to cry and opened my arms and held them out to her, silently offering to hold her. She sort of fell sideways right into my arms and I held her with our cheeks pressed together while she cried and I attuned with her, and felt her dysregulation, and used all the skills I know that I have been practicing and grappling with and diving into, and regulated my nervous system through her ups and downs as the song went on. I breathed deeply and rhythmically, I rocked her a little bit and let her feel my natural swaying. And I felt it - I felt the moment that her nervous system clicked into place with mine, and she started breathing deeply again and I felt her relax against me. She kept her cheek to mine until the song was over, and then she whispered "Thank you so much" and kissed me on the cheek. We hung out until the end of the show, and exchanged names but I was never able to get Facebook to connect with her for some reason, so I have never talked to her again. It was beautiful, and profound, and I felt so deeply blessed to be able to do that for her - since I have many times had the experience of being the person at the show who is crying and can't stop and there was no one there to help me come back to myself. I have no idea what the feelings were that came up for her - I just knew they were universal and that I could help her through them.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 2:39 PM on December 12, 2018 [16 favorites]


I love all of these stories, MeFites.

And I love you. Keep being awesome.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:51 PM on December 12, 2018 [4 favorites]


With great power comes great responsibility (Luke 12:48).

That’s (Luke Cage 12:48).
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:51 PM on December 12, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sweet Christmas, am I ever here for the Stan Lee Version of the gospel.
posted by asperity at 4:26 PM on December 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well, then you might want to try The Dream of the Rood, in which Christ is a great-thewed Beowulfian Hero who could have reduced the Cross to kindling with a single mighty flex but chooses not to for the greater good.
posted by jamjam at 5:59 PM on December 12, 2018 [4 favorites]


That does sound fun, thanks!

Though I had in mind something more like "I was a stranger, and you took me in [to the Xavier mansion]."
posted by asperity at 9:50 AM on December 13, 2018


Look up "rob liefeld jesus." You might regret it; you'll never forget it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:36 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Until the house lights came up at the end and a couple of drunk girls started swinging on each other, but there's always someone... heck, we saw a guy windmilling on someone drunk at the Doobie Brothers, FFS.

Once I was a show by The Books in New Jersey and someone started a fistfight over being asked to sit down. The Books are literally one of the least aggro bands I can think of -- they played guitar and cello in a kind of pop-musique-concrète style that sounded like this. Anyway, happy ending: fight instigator was ejected to cheers, and the rest of us had a lovely time.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:42 PM on December 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


The Books? I can't imagine someone starting shit at a concert by The Books.

But then, I was once at a Juliana Hatfield show in which a mosh pit broke out. She stopped mid-song and said, "Guys, do you think maybe you're a little too into this?"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:26 AM on December 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


My high school marching band went on a trip to Scotland in the late 80's. I am a voracious reader, and knew there was no way I could carry enough books to hold me for two weeks, so I brought some embroidery projects with me to keep my hands busy at least. We got to visit Stratford-upon-Avon before heading north and I had no interest at all the the Shakespeare Museum, so I found a nice spot under a tree in the park and took up my crossstitch. A pair of ladies came over, clearly tickled to death to see a sixteen year old casually doing needlework and came over to say hello. They were then entirely boggled that they had discovered an American sixteen year old doing needlework in the park. They were very sweet, but seemed to think I was the oddest tourist they'd ever seen.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:29 AM on December 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


For a while I was going to the rec centre to do weights early in the morning before work. It was mostly seniors who would go at this time, regulars, and the community is very culturally diverse.
Every morning we would stand at the door in the cold waiting for the centre to open at six, and as each person arrived these seniors would turn and greet the latest arrival in their mother tongue, and the newly arrived would then wish each of the others a good morning in their mother tongues.
It was my favourite part of each day and made going to the gym so pleasant.
posted by chapps at 11:39 AM on December 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


Oh, once I went for curry in Vancouver with my brother. The restaurant had previously been a western bar, and the decor had not changed (wagon wheels and lassos everywhere!) Except for photos of African animals propped on the wooden walls.

The food was great and when the owner popped by our table and asked us how we were doing I asked him about the photos. He said he had come from Uganda, not India, and the photos remind him of his home. Then he sat down and told us his story, how he fled as a refugee, and how he'd started the restaurant and his sadness at visiting home many years later to find it so changed.
We had a long chat with him, he was a gentle guy, and the conversation was full of hope and sadness and resilience.
The food was lovely and so was the company. Generous, he was, in every way.
posted by chapps at 11:53 AM on December 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


Austin is home to the soon-to-be-moved, daytime-legal, abandoned-building-site graffiti walls known as the HOPE Outdoor Gallery.

I have been going there on and off over the last year to shoot interesting tags for an art project I've been working on.

A few weeks ago I'm on the top level of the structure wearing my camera, and a random gentleman comes up to me.

Him: "Hey. Photo guy. We need to take a picture of all this. Before it goes away."
Me: (nicely) "I'm sure there's been plenty taken - I know I've taken a bunch."
Him: "Yeah, but right now. All this, with these people."
Me: "These..people?"
Him: "Yes, let's do it. You take it."

So, random man starts loudly telling everyone up there that we're going to take a group picture. I was pretty impressed that everyone there suddenly made it their business to take a giant group picture. As far as I know, no group of people up there knew each other, and they photographed really well.

After we took the photo, I said to the man "so what's your email address, do you want a copy?" And he mysteriously holds his hands up to indicate that he neither wants to give me his name, nor his contact information. Then he turned and walked away, smiling.
posted by bitterkitten at 1:42 PM on December 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

Once I was a show by The Books in New Jersey and someone started a fistfight over being asked to sit down.
I'd absolutely participate in a The Books mosh pit. I'm guessing it would involve people on stilts, articulated full-body puppets, and carefully choreographed Wushu stunts.
posted by eotvos at 3:41 PM on December 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Damn I just remembered a story that relates to this. Actually two. both involve cars weirdly.

So it's about 5:30 in the morning and I've had a couple hours sleep maybe after a night of some pretty serious partying in the rough part of a rough city not too far from the town I was living in. I chose to leave at this early hour on a Saturday so that there won't be many people on the road, including the police, just in case. So I head out onto the highway and I get the low fuel warning light and chime.. No problem I think, I can drive about 30 clicks once the fuel warning comes on. So I keep driving, as I only have about 15 clicks to get home. Well about five clicks later, right on the section of highway between me and my destination with the longest gap between exits, the car loses power. Out of gas. Shit. Well this is a new one for me. First time that ever happened. I should have gassed up before I left but I was just thinking about getting home and into my own bed.

"So, it has come to this", i think to myself. I have no roadside assistance package, I have no jerry can, and my cell phone is deader than dead and of course, the AC/USB adapter in my car had broke just a couple days ago. The sun is just coming up and I feel pretty beat all of a sudden as I realize that I'm gonna be walking about 5 clicks to the nearest gas station. I have one cigarette left, and my lighter is barely fucntional for reasons. So put on the four way flashers, I get out of the car, lock the doors, and start walking up the road with a cloud hanging above my head. The air is crisp and I'm not exactly dressed for the outdoors either.

I make it about fifty feet from the car when this Mercedes SUV (a glk i think) pulls over in front of me onto the shoulder. (I was driving a Cadillac) . I walk up to the driver's side window which has rolled down, and there's this slick looking black guy driving, and he says "need a lift?". I'm like, yeah man I ran out of gas heading home from the dirty south and this is the first time that's ever happened to me, I feel so dumb... He's like "hop in man, where you wanna go?" I have to think for a bit and then I'm like "just take me to the gas station in my town, they know me there I'm sure they'll hook me up." As we get there I say to him "pull in at the bank here and I'll get you some cash for your time, it's the least I can do to thank you, you showed up at just the right time, we haven't even seen more than two cars on this stretch of road since you picked me up, I was gonna have to walk this whole way, you really saved my ass!" and he says "don't worry about it man, just next time you see someone walking up the road from their car, stop and give them a hand."

Also there was that time where I was the good Samaritan and I was the first on the scene to a pretty bad (but thankfully not fatal) head-on collision after a big weekend-long concert event type of thing. After checking on both vehicles and calling 911, I stuck around with the one injured driver who was stuck in his car, woke him up, filled him in on the situation, asked where it hurt, examined his leg as best I could, checked for bleeders, etc... then other folks started stopping and coming to "help", couple people were concerned about the "smoke" (actually just coolant vaporizing) and wanted to rush in and pull the guy out of the car! I was like "no, that's not how it works, that's coolant, there's no fire, what if there's a chunk of car in his leg and we pull him out and then he bleeds out? what if he has a neck injury? and you NEVER REMOVE THE PERSON FROM THE CAR unless it's truly on fire, you REMOVE THE CAR FROM THE PERSON. IT IS KNOWN. " I said this with enough authority that , when I saw the ambulance and cops pulling up, I calmly exited the situation since I was riding dirty, but I heard someone in the distance saying, "no that's just coolant vaporizing, we're supposed to leave him in there, he may have a neck injury, he may have something stuck in his leg and bleed out all over us if we try to move him, it's safer for him until the fire department comes and they can REMOVE THE CAR FROM THE PERSON!"
posted by some loser at 7:12 PM on December 15, 2018 [10 favorites]


A couple of years ago, I was going into a Panera Bread. Somebody else was coming out, so I held the outside door open and waited for him to come out. He, seeing me, held open the inside door. What I like to call a "humble off" ensued.

His arguments for holding the door for me: He was a man, I was a woman, it was the right thing to do. I told him that he didn't know that about me, and he looked surprised and agreed. (cue heart growing several sizes too big) He finally won by pointing out that his shoes were more comfortable-looking than mine, so he should have to stand longer (lol). Friends, I lost that humble off with good grace and the lightest of laughter. I'm afraid I've lost some conversation details over time, but his from-the-soul, effortless generosity brightened my whole week.
posted by snerson at 7:48 AM on December 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


I told him that he didn't know that about me, and he looked surprised and agreed. (cue heart growing several sizes too big) He finally won by pointing out that his shoes were more comfortable-looking than mine, so he should have to stand longer (lol).

Nearly every day I have a similar problem because I work in a super macho, quasi-military environment and I absolutely CANNOT get a man to go ahead of me in any situation. They will stay there for ages waiting. They will stand outside the gate so you can go in front of them in the sally port, even if it means they have to wait (no more than 8 people at a time). I've tried joking with them in an effort to go first "There's no chivalry in the sally port!" or "You've been here all night and I just got here, please go first!" but nope. I've tried holding doors open for them and they will reach over and catch hold of the door and then gesture for me to go in first. Men hold doors for women, the end.

Mine's more of a sexism-off rather than a humble-off, and therefore not sweet and mostly irritating.

I might try that comfortable shoes line next time though.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:24 AM on December 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


"Oh yeah The Bunghole. That's a liquor store up in Salem."

I'm pretty sure that's not the one in Salem. The one in Salem is called Bunghole Liquors.
posted by bendy at 5:13 PM on December 16, 2018


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