Help Me Get My Smile Back? February 21, 2019 9:32 AM   Subscribe

A strange man screamed at me for no reason today, now I find I need something to help me shake that encounter off, and feel happy again. Details below.

I was walking my dogs, and we came around a corner and, I guess, startled a man walking in the other direction. He immediately started yelling at me. The thing he seemed most angry about was that I was smiling as I walked. He screamed at me for smiling. I'm not taking this personally. I'm sure there was more going on with this guy than just a bad day, its just that I realized I do smile a lot when I walk my dogs. A big, goofy grin, because I love being outside with them, and I'm so grateful that I have a life that lets me experience this joy daily. But today, I came home, and I'm not smiling. I'm a bit shaken up because his anger was so intense, and scary, and out of the blue.

What I think would help me feel better, would be if any of you have any stories about chance encounters with strangers that made you smile, or made you really happy. It could be any stranger in any type situation. If you feel like sharing, I'd be very appreciative.

One of my own examples was the other day, a women cut me off as I was driving in to the Panda Express drive through. It was obviously not intentional on her part, she looked startled and mouthed "I'm SO sorry!" to me. Then when I got up to the window, it turned out she had bought me an order of spring rolls and those crab puff things. That made me smile.

I know there are other threads like this, but I think it will be comforting to hear from people responding to my question personally. Thanks you guys!
posted by WalkerWestridge to Uptime at 9:32 AM (96 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

I've told this story before, but I'll tell it here anyway:

Once, when I was on the 7 train to work, a man got on and sat down next to me. He had one each of those free papers we have in NYC -- AM NY and Metro. 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.
posted by holborne at 9:44 AM on February 21, 2019 [33 favorites]

Sorry that happened to you. Those kinds of things can be so jarring... I'm India right now and I always travel with those small teacher's stickers. I put a few dozen of various designs on a small sheet of sticker paper in my wallet that gets replenished often. I let kids I meet pick one or two out to put on the backs of their hands. The children are not always poor or begging. It is AMAZING. Kids that may earn money working in a chai shop or begging don't care about money because they don't get to keep or use it. But the stickers are for them and they are SO happy. I watch them walk away, absolutely staring at their hands or run to show their parents or friends.
posted by maya at 9:48 AM on February 21, 2019 [29 favorites]

I'm sorry that happened to you. This comment that was just posted over on the blue might fit your request.
posted by gauche at 9:50 AM on February 21, 2019 [10 favorites]

I always like it when buttoned-up guys forget themselves a bit. Two examples I've seen:

* Me and this executive-type dude are standing on a corner waiting for the light to change. Suddenly a guy on a motorized scooter zips around the corner and past us; we both follow him with our eyes. When the scooter is gone, I turn back around and the executive dude is still watching. He turns to me with an awestruck look and gasps "that's the coolest thing I've ever seen!"

* I'm on a crowded subway that's gotten temporarily stuck between stations. In the middle of the car there's a group of about five kids playing the dozens, and across the aisle from them is a super-polished, power-dressed middle-aged lady. She can't help but hear the kids (hell, we ALL can hear them), but her main reaction is a faint disapproving resigned smirk, sort of like "oh, those kids are being a little naughty, but I guess it can't be helped."

I WISH I could remember more of some of the things the kids were saying; the only one of the things that they said that I can remember was "your mama is so fat that when she steps on the scale it says 'to be continued'." But ONE of the things they said struck that power-dressed lady so funny that she dropped her disapproval and burst out laughing. I didn't hear what they said, but got a big kick out of HER reaction.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:55 AM on February 21, 2019 [15 favorites]

Oh my gosh I TOTALLY FORGOT I blogged about one such "strangers turning into excited little kids" moment:

During the 2017 eclipse, I went out to the sidewalk with a set of eclipse glasses to look at the eclipse that way. And at one point I started sharing the glasses with other people on the sidewalk; and to be honest, watching their reactions when they saw the eclipse was the best part.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on February 21, 2019 [11 favorites]

I was once out at the grocery store and a little girl looked at me pointed and then asked her mom quite loudly, "Mama, why is he brown?" the mother put her hand down and said the following:

"First, it's rude to point your finger, so please stop. And you know how when you color a rainbow you use lots of colours to make the picture brighter and happier. That's what God did when people were made."

I'm not super religious but even if you don't believe in a God, it made me smile super big. I smiled at both the mom and her child and we had a momemt.

BONUS: nightrecordings & I both dog sat this last weekend. Here is a video I took of these two happy but dumb dogs we spent time with.
posted by Fizz at 10:41 AM on February 21, 2019 [55 favorites]

OK, i'm the stranger in this one, I guess, but several years ago I encountered by chance an imminently suicidal person who had "absolutely made up his mind" and arranged for a mental-health specialist to intervene. Today I found out that the person is still alive.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:45 AM on February 21, 2019 [46 favorites]

When I was bald during chemo, having brunch with friends in my favorite restaurant, an elderly woman came over to our table, grasped my hand, and said, "I'm a survivor and you will be too, honey." Even now I can't get through telling that story without crying. I'm crying right now!
posted by something something at 11:02 AM on February 21, 2019 [100 favorites]

Last summer on a backpacking trip I had one of those chance encounters with a stranger that thru-hikers call "trail magic" and I'm still amazed it happened. But it makes me smile every time I think about it!

I was on this 100 mile section of trail that was pretty desolated - I hadn't see anybody for almost 48 hours. At camp that night, I realized I had somehow lost the cord to charge my watch. I backtracked over 2 miles (in the dark) but couldn't find it. Since it was matte black I had tied a small red ribbon around it so that I could see it easily if I ever dropped it, but it was gone. It would be over 250 miles before I could get another cord, and while I wasn't screwed without my watch, it wasn't going to be easy - it was my main mileage, altimeter, and GPS device. (I had backups for these but not so easy to use). So I was Not Happy.

I got a really late start the next morning because my watch was also my alarm and also because I searched around my camp some more. Someone had passed me and was about 2 miles ahead (it was above treeline); feeling pretty down and slow, I gradually caught up with him about mid day. We chatted for a few minutes, and realized that we had been passing each other without seeing one another for about 5 days. We had even camped about 1000 yards apart the night before without knowing it. As we were parting, on a desperate whim I asked if he had happened to see a cord on the trail.

"Oh yeah!" he said. "I noticed it because it had a red tie." I was just about to ask where - I was ready to go back and get it - when he continued, "And I always like to pick up trash, so I picked it up," and he pulled it out his bag! Marmots had chewed the shit out of it but it was still workable. He had carried it for over 20 miles. We both exclaimed over this happy coincidence for a few minutes, and then he said, "Welllll since I rescued your cord, maybe I could trouble you for some water?" Sure, I said, and was pulling the water out when he explained, "Sorry to ask but I think I left one of my water bottles on X Peak a few days ago and I've been running short since."

At a nice little view point two days previously I had found a water bottle, just regular plastic one, but I did notice it was a brand from the West coast. And since I also always like to pick up trash, I emptied it, squashed it a little flat, and threw it in my pack.

Without a word, I pulled it out and handed it to him. That West Coast brand? It was his.
posted by barchan at 11:25 AM on February 21, 2019 [166 favorites]

Not too long after I was discharged from the hospital, I woke up with a very swollen eye that did not improve with cold packs, so my friend took me to Urgent Care, and after I took down my hood, the nurse looked at the scar across my head, and said, 'Oh, honey...' before kindly explaining that I had to go to ER. I felt like her compassionate response made an increasingly scary experience feel more manageable.

At the ER, we were told to sit right across from the nurse's station, so they could keep an eye on me while waiting for a room. A man walked into the ER and began yelling loudly about having a 10 on the pain scale, and sat down and continued yelling. In the midst of the ruckus, I noticed a woman in a wheelchair on the other side of the ER, with a bandaged and elevated leg, alone and quietly weeping.

I got up and approached the nurse's station, and asked if they had tissues, because she was crying. The nurse jumped up and brought a box of tissues over, and asked the woman if she would like them, and the woman emphatically replied, *yes*, and took the tissues. I can only hope that the small act of compassion made a positive difference in her scary experience, but I do know from my own experiences with the kindness of strangers, it certainly can.
posted by Little Dawn at 11:37 AM on February 21, 2019 [29 favorites]

It's possible I've told this story before, but I couldn't find it in my comment history.

I once spent an entire plane ride talking to a guy about all sorts of things; it was a terrific conversation with a lot of laughs and a definite connection. We had a lot in common too: same college, related careers, time spent in the same cities and ski areas, etc. At one point he revealed that he and his wife had experienced success with IVF, having twins after many years of heartache, including multiple miscarriages, and how happy they were to be parents. When he asked whether I had children, I decided not to respond that I'm intentionally child free; it seemed insensitive given all the effort it had taken for he and his wife to have a family. So I said simply that it had never worked out for me for a variety of reasons but that I was a very engaged aunt, and the conversation moved on. After we landed, hours late, he turned away from me and started talking quietly--but intently-- on his phone. I gathered up my stuff and was preparing to wave good-bye when he grabbed my wrist and asked me not to leave just yet. So I waited while he finished up the conversation; his side was mostly "uh-huh, uh-huh."

After he got off the phone, he said, "What I'm about to tell you may sound really weird, but I ran this idea by my wife and she trusts my instincts and gave me permission." Needless to say, my mind reeled; polyamory, maybe? But then, "We think our family is complete now. The twins are healthy and we decided a while ago not to have any more kids. But we still have a bunch of fertilized eggs. We don't know what to do with them; we don't really feel right about destroying them, but but we also don't want to keep them in the freezer forever. So we decided to hold on to them for a few years in case any of our friends or family need them. And so I want to tell you that if you and your husband decide you could use them, you can have them." And then he gave me his card.

Obviously his own experience led him to infer that I too had fertility issues, but his offer was one of the kindest and most trusting experiences of my life. I kept his card in the pencil tray of my desk just to remind myself that once upon a time, someone thought, based on very little evidence, that I was worthy of an incredible gift.
posted by carmicha at 11:41 AM on February 21, 2019 [136 favorites]

Also for anyone else wanting more of this kind of happy, check out the blue and look at this post. It's also a story about a stranger and smiles.
posted by Fizz at 11:41 AM on February 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

One day when I was 19 I was waiting for the bus at the local mall. There was a lady waiting with me who had a baby in her arms, a toddler at her kness, and a stroller holding bags. I was your funky white english-speaking college kid, and she wore a burka and didn't seem to speak English. The bus pulled up, and she was struggling a bit to hold everything and get the stroller up, so I pantomimed an offer to help, and reached for the stroller. She looked at me, then handed me the baby instead of the stroller and we all got on the bus. I gave the baby back and we went our way.

I think a lot about how this woman, whom I had very little in common with, sized me up and let me hold her child. I was stunned she would just trust me, a stranger, with her baby!
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:44 AM on February 21, 2019 [47 favorites]

How about if I was the other guy? I was on the F train heading home from work. I was reading the first volume of the Illuminatus Trilogy. Maybe for the tenth time. The person next to me struck up a conversation about the book. How did I like it? Was it really as weird as people said? Eventually she got up to exit the train and I gave her the book. I really wanted to turn someone else on to the books. She was surprised but accepted it.
posted by Splunge at 12:43 PM on February 21, 2019 [8 favorites]

I usually walk to work and walk home. On my to work, I generally say "Good morning" to the people I pass. Sometimes I don't get a response. Sometimes I do. My favorite moment was when I came upon a young man with a kind of stern look. I said my usual "Good morning" and he got a huge smile on his face and said, "It's a blessed morning!"
posted by maurice at 12:46 PM on February 21, 2019 [9 favorites]

Sorry it's not a story, but have you seen the video of AOC being "accosted" by a random passing bulldog on the street in NYC? [Twitter link]
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:53 PM on February 21, 2019 [25 favorites]

nightrecordings & I

Well, now you mention it, Fizz, those 3 words gave me a big happy smile.
posted by ambrosen at 12:56 PM on February 21, 2019 [23 favorites]

Splunge reminded me of a fun exchange i had with someone who got on a subway and saw me reading "Love In The Time of Cholera". He did a take at the title then asked "where are you in the book?" I told him. "Is this the first time you've read it?" I said yes it was. He looked at the cover, then gave me a big grin and said "I envy you."

I've also had a couple of really fun chance interactions with kids; I was running some errands, and was stopped by a very studious-looking little girl, accompanied by her father who had a bit of a twinkle in his eye. The girl handed me a slip of paper upon which she'd scribbled some random scrawl, and the father patiently and indulgently explained that "we're starting a newspaper and wanted to make sure you got your copy on time." Other times, if I'm knitting, that's started some interactions with curious and fascinated kids as well, who ask all kinds of questions about how knitting works and what I'm making and how maybe what I'm making could be turned into something else.

One of my favorite moments, though, was one afternoon when I was wandering around my neighborhood with some friends, and a father walked over to us, carrying his child, a shy toddler girl who had her face buried in his shoulder, but who would also lift her head to peer at me once or twice. "Excuse me," the father said, stopping me. "I didn't mean to interrupt you all, but - I thought you might like to hear this."


"We were on our way back from lunch," the father said to me, "and my daughter saw you and pointed and said 'look, papa, isn't that lady pretty?' And I thought maybe you'd appreciate hearing that." The little girl had peeped up at me at this, and gave me a shy little smile; I thanked her very much, and told her that I really liked her purple coat, too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:00 PM on February 21, 2019 [39 favorites]

I think I may have told this story before, but when I was getting a divorce, my ex made a bunch more money than I did. One night we were divvying up the *stuff*, and he told me to just take whatever I wanted out of the kitchen because he could replace it all with his next paycheque.

Well, my friends got wind of this, and a few nights later, five of them came over and packed up EVERYTHING IN THE KITCHEN. ALL OF IT. We had pizza and wine and laughs, and my kitchen, lo these eight and a bit years later, is just starting to need some replacement items after I haven't had to buy a damn thing for it since moving out. Friends rule.
posted by wellred at 1:05 PM on February 21, 2019 [32 favorites]

On election night, 2008, NYC was a very happy place. I left a pub in midtown, walked through block after block of people celebrating in the street and got on the A train back to Inwood where I lived. There weren't a ton of people on the train....I got off at 190th and walked down the long tunnel toward Broadway. As I got to the door, a woman was walking into the station. We exchanged a look of joy and relief and both quietly said "yay!" and went on our ways. It's so overly cutesy now that I'm telling it but in the moment it was wonderful.
posted by Smearcase at 1:19 PM on February 21, 2019 [24 favorites]

The year is 2001 or 2002 and I have a 1993 Audi 200 CS Quattro wagon with the folding seats that face backwards out the rear window. The car is at capacity, 7 people strong, and I, having had a couple of glasses of wine at a party, am relegated to sitting in said rear-facing seat along with a friend. We're tooling down Pine St., I think, and come to a stoplight. The car behind us, a convertible, is being driven by a man giving us a quizzical look. He mouths to us: Why are you sitting back there? Because, I reply, we are very small. I make the accompanying "crush your head" finger symbol. The man burst out laughing, and we laughed along with him.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:22 PM on February 21, 2019 [19 favorites]

A few nights ago, I was at a concert when a song made me cry. I was trying to be subtle about wiping away the tears, and kept the sniffles quiet, but the woman next to me saw and handed me a cheerfully-patterned bandana to cry into. She saw me where I was, and gave me what I needed right then: witness and practical compassion. Thank you, kind stranger.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:41 PM on February 21, 2019 [16 favorites]

Last summer lost my keys while out jogging, I had them tied into the drawstring of my shorts but somehow they came loose somewhere. I know I had them for a good while, I think I lost them somewhere between mile 2 and 4 on my run. So I turned around and retraced my steps, then retraced my steps again with no luck. I had no way home without my car keys and, if I got a ride there somehow, no way to get in my home without my house keys. I was majorly bummed out and decided to walk to the park office to use their phone to call for help. On the way I passed the lot where my car was parked and saw that there was something on my windshield: it was my keys, a granola bar, and a note telling me to have a great day. This park has six different parking areas, it was not a trivial effort for a stranger to find my totally common, inconspicuous car even with the keys in hand; it was an epic good deed by an anonymous somebody.
posted by peeedro at 2:57 PM on February 21, 2019 [44 favorites]

This past December, I was at the photo counter of Costco to pick up the personalized Christmas cards I had ordered online. I was standing next to a woman using one of Costco's computers to create her own card. She was using the same design I had used. "I picked out that same card!" I told her. I am Asian American; she was Hispanic. That may be why she said, "But they are in Spanish!" pointing to the "Feliz Navidad" message on the card. Now, I think "Feliz Navidad" is a well-understood holiday message even among non-Spanish speakers, but instead of saying that, I explained that my wife is Hispanic. "Here, let me show you," I told her, opening my box and showing her my cards featuring my multicultural family . "What a beautiful family," she said, and I said, "Your family too!" Then I said to her, "Feliz navidad!" and we parted ways.
posted by hhc5 at 3:07 PM on February 21, 2019 [24 favorites]

These are wonderful ! This is just what I needed. Thank you everyone!!!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:56 PM on February 21, 2019 [16 favorites]

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.

This is just one of my stories in the recent MetaTalk thread about "What are some memorable or funny (or both) interactions you've had with [non-threatening] strangers in public?"

For every angry person out there, there's at least one happy one, arguably many more.
posted by bendy at 4:30 PM on February 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

Not a person, but last fall, I spent a day burning some brush and scrap wood that had no use, while working in the yard. It was a nice, productive day. At dusk, as I was banking down the fire pit, I looked up, and an owl flew right over me, very close, and landed on a tree branch near me. Sat and watched it for a bit, then it took off into the woods. The current situation in the country(US) feels awful, there are unresolveable issues in my personal life, and it was a moment of pure grace.

Also, I'll bet your dogs are really cute, and maybe you have some pictures of them, hint, hint. I have temporarily put my dog's pic in my profile.
posted by theora55 at 4:32 PM on February 21, 2019 [11 favorites]

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.

This is one of my favorites.
posted by bendy at 4:34 PM on February 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

On my way into the grocery store yesterday I impulsively stopped at the scruffy homeless young girl with sign sitting outside and ask her if she'd like me to get her some food. She was really happy I asked and requested a box of cereal and 1/2 gallon of milk. When I came back out with her stuff she was deep into 1000 page book. I asked her what she was reading, we started talking about our mutual love of books, especially long books, and how bummed we are when those books are done . It was just a really nice interaction and she was very excited that she was going to share the cereal and milk with her friends
posted by supermedusa at 5:28 PM on February 21, 2019 [12 favorites]

A few years back my father started having a weird post-procedural reaction to a colonoscopy; just feeling weirdly wobbly and queasy a few days after. He rushed himself to an emergency room; by the time Mom found out and got there, he was already back in with the doctors and Mom was stuck in a waiting game in the lobby, waiting to get news from the doctors about what was going on. (Took them an hour or so to figure out; Dad had just forgotten to tell the doctors he was on immune suppressants to treat arthritis, and there was a post-procedure infection that cleared up after some extra antibiotics.)

While my mother was waiting to hear how Dad was, she ended up striking up a conversation with another woman also waiting to hear about HER husband. The woman asked Mom about what she knew about Dad, and how long she'd been waiting; Mom had been there an hour at that point. And in passing Mom said something like "i was just thinking I kinda want to get a bottle of water from the vending machine, but I'm afraid that the second I go do that the doctor will finally come out and come looking for me and I don't want to miss him!" And the woman chuckled at that. Five minutes later the doctor came out to get Mom; the doctor said Mom could leave her coat behind, and the woman wished her 'good luck."

When Mom went back out after the consult to get her coat, the woman was gone. And sitting on top of my mother's coat was a bottle of water from the vending machine - and a cookie.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:43 PM on February 21, 2019 [21 favorites]

Not a whole lot to this story but it is fresh on my mind and is good enough for me for today so here goes...

I took our kids to the playground/park today and it was reasonably busy, which is fine since they get other kids to play with on the rope course thing that is the feature of this particular park in our neighborhood. I noticed one dad, in jeans and work shirt, running around with his maybe 8 or 10 or 12 or something year old daughter playing tag. Guy is holding back not one whit in an effort to not let her, finally, outrun/tag the old man or at least that's how I read it from the sidelines.

They turn to go and sprint across the park towards the parking zone, neck and neck, dad pumping trying to beat her to the vehicle. I happen to see his iphone-with-attached-wallet fly out of his pocket and land on the grass, he doesn't miss a beat. I lean over to a nice looking parent next to me to say I'm walking away from my kids to help that guy out and I give a notification to my kiddos to stay put, right here, I'll be back which gets a cute/resounding "OK" from both of them.

I jog over and snag it and whoop/shout 'Yo.... Yo! YO, HEY MAN!' to the guy just as he's getting into the car with his daughter. He looks around and spots me waving his stuff at him as I walk closer and he and his companion come over and snag it with many thanks.

Me: "You were at top speed there and this popped out of your pocket."
Him: "I wouldn't even have been mad if I lost it... I beat her to the truck but won't be able to for much longer. Thanks."
Me: "Hey man, when you push us older models hard sometimes parts fall off, I hear ya." (or some such nonsense anyway).

It was a nice parent moment, seeing that guy getting down with his daughter and both of them loving it, my two kiddos having a blast and listening well at the park, and me able to help him out of a huge PITA if he had driven off without phone and cards and cash or whatever else was in that case/accessory for his phone.

Feels good man.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:52 PM on February 21, 2019 [21 favorites]

A Facebook friend just re-shared this story about a runner being catcalled and a young boy's reaction. I took a lot of comfort in the boy's response.

As for my own positive interactions, they're all really small, but here they are:
- Helping kids catch Pokémon in Pokémon Go.
- Strangers helping me carry luggage up a flight of stairs at a subway station.
- Helping a parent carry a stroller up a flight of stairs in a museum.
- Visiting a different city and meeting the Pokémon players there: The friend function had debuted not too long ago, and I brought some Pokémon exclusive to my region that these players didn't have. (You have to be in-game friends to trade.) One of them said he had decided to limit himself to n friends, but that now he had n+1 .
posted by invokeuse at 12:08 AM on February 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

this morning I got out of the car in our day care parking lot to see what the hold up was with cars exiting. I was a little annoyed. As I got out I noticed another parent struggling to make it up a snowy hill with her baby in the car seat. I got to help her and the baby make it up the hill and smile and chat a bit. I just liked that I never would have noticed her and had this really nice moment in my day if I hadn’t been slightly inconvenienced. It reminded me: the world isn’t on my schedule & to be “the helper.”
posted by CMcG at 12:32 AM on February 22, 2019 [8 favorites]

Also I fixed it but autocorrect on my phone changed “smile and chat a bit” to “smoke and chat a bit.” Lol.
posted by CMcG at 12:34 AM on February 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was standing in line at a little hole in the wall pastry shop on a busy street in Seattle, wearing a faintly embarrassing leather jacket my girlfriend had recently bought me, Ray-Bans, jeans and hiking boots, when I felt a very sharp pain in my lower left leg and looked down to see a little girl who could not have been more than five years old, with bright red hair, standing about 3 feet away from me with clenched fists down at her sides, and looking up at me with blazing blue eyes and a look of tremendous satisfaction on her face as she made "hm-hm-hm-hm!" sounds under her breath.

And when she saw that she had my attention, she ran forward and kicked me again! "Ow", I said, but before I could say anything else -- and I basically had no idea what to say in that circumstance -- a small and slight man about my own age that I must have outweighed by at least 80 lbs. rushed up and said 'here now! we can't be doing things like that! We can't just walk up to people and kick them whenever we feel like it' and a bunch of other stuff in a similar vein, but even though he was obviously extremely upset, and had started to sweat heavily, he didn't grab her and he didn't sound even slightly angry or mean. I was watching the the little girl as he lectured her, and she did not look chastened or like she regretted kicking me as hard as she could one little bit!

Which made me just start laughing, and I said "that's quite a spirited child you have on your hands there! Please don't be too hard on her.' Then it was my turn to order, and they left as I asked for a couple of almond croissants.

She would be an adult woman by now, and I occasionally imagine her out there in the world somewhere striking well-placed blows against the Patriarchy.
posted by jamjam at 1:37 AM on February 22, 2019 [40 favorites]

jamjam, I love that story.
posted by bendy at 1:49 AM on February 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I take my kids to/from school most days in our cargo bike, and I recently got a bluetooth speaker so the kids can listen to music on the way. This week we were rolling down the cycle lane past a long traffic jam while blasting The Go! Team (which is great in itself), and when we reached the traffic lights, a lady walking past couldn't help but smile and say "Wow! I want a go! Haha!".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:49 AM on February 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

MetaFilter: Marmots had chewed the shit out of it but it was still workable.
posted by chavenet at 4:26 AM on February 22, 2019 [24 favorites]

Today I walked my dog and one of my cats tagged along as he likes to do. On the way back, a very small child toddled over to look wide-eyed at the cat while his father nervously hung back. I tried my limited chinese to say "good cat, touch the cat ok!" and the little guy stepped closer. The cat stared at the child (this is the most mellow cat ever and is used to being hauled about by small people) and then walked away to the child's sorrow.

So I picked him up and held him up, dog sitting patiently behind me, while the cat grumpily hung down with his soft fuzzy belly out and said "touch cat!" and the toddler got closer and closer squealing in excitement... then bailed.

But then! as I set the cat down, and the father and I exchanged shrugs over what are you going to do, the toddler darted forward and PATTED THE CAT. The cat looked up at him and the toddler looked down and then the cat meowed and the toddler went into a sort of total body shiver of joy and danced away.

We walked off then, figuring that was a high point but got followed by the toddler going "meow meow" almost to the road and had to herd him back with his father and explain it was time for the cat to go home.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:44 AM on February 22, 2019 [50 favorites]

A couple of cute winter interactions from the sidewalks of Brooklyn; one I was part of, one I just witnessed.

The one I just witnessed: a pair of patrol cops are standing around on a corner and talking. Three boys stand in a little cluster about 5 yards away, nervously looking at them; as I'm passing, I see that all three of the boys are holding snowballs. But they're just holding them, looking nervously over at the cops. But the cops don't see this; they're just talking.

Until one of the cops finally glances over and sees them, sees the snowballs in their hands and sees their nervous looks. She laughs, sizing up the situation immediately. "Gp ahead, it's okay, guys," she calls over to them. The boys all jump and look over at her, scared. "Don't worry about it, it's okay. You won't get in trouble. Go ahead." The boys blink in shock, then grin, turn to each other, and all three simultaneously lob their snowballs at each other.

The one I was part of: it's the morning after a sizeable snowstorm, and I'm trying to get out to work a little early to cope with the havoc in store on the subways. Right before I leave the house I hear on the radio that city schools are closed for the day; wishing I could take the day off myself, I head out.

As I'm trudging up the hill towards my subway, I happen to look across to the other side of the road and see that a father is also trudging up the hill with his two grade-school daughters. They're chattering away about the snow; and I happen to hear one of the girls say something about "recess today". "Excuse me," I call over. "Maybe you didn't hear - did you hear schools were closed today?"

All three stop dead and turn to me. "The city schools are cancelled?" The father asks me. "Are you sure?"

"Just heard it on the radio before I came out," I said. "School cancelled, citywide."

They blinked at me for one or two more seconds. Then the younger girl threw up her hands and shouted "WOOOO-HOOOOOOOO!" and started running back down the hill back to her house.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:11 AM on February 22, 2019 [23 favorites]

One time I was on a bus going home after work and a bunch of excited little kids got on--well-behaved, but excited. They were with their teacher after an outing and they were full of chat at varying noise levels, but there was definitely an excited buzz. At one point the level of the buzz had dropped a little bit and suddenly one little voice pierced through everything, saying with obvious anxiety, "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE LADYBUG?"

I didn't get the sense, from the reaction, that any ladybugs were about to be harmed.
posted by Amy NM at 6:36 AM on February 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

When my son was very small (like newborn) and I was out with him in public, old men would pat me and smile. It was very odd, but very sweet. And it happened numerous times. One old man patted my knee when I walked by him seated. Two others patted me on the shoulder. I don't usually enjoy being touched by strange men but this seemed almost like a benediction from fathers whose time as parents of babies had passed. It seemed fond and congratulatory.

This one is less sweet but I was at the midnight book release for one of the Harry Potter books and this woman who had been really pushy and unpleasant during all of the festivities was trying to shove her way through the line. I saw her coming and so did the woman standing next to me. We made eye contact and squared our shoulders and took a step closer to each other so she couldn't push past us. The pushy lady realized she couldn't get past us and walked away, we smiled at each other and moved away.
posted by Aquifer at 7:06 AM on February 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

Last night when my family and I were at a restaurant, another family was staring at me cooing over my infant niece, tying myself in knots trying to make her smile. I thought I was being noisy, and when I caught their gaze I said "I'm sorry I'm so loud!" and they all said, "No! She's so cute! Please continue!" and I could tell they meant it.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:22 AM on February 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

I can't help but make faces at babies and kids, because making little people smile or giggle makes me happy. I don't do it all the time, but when I'm waiting in line and there are little kids looking around, I make a goofy face to see how they respond, and if they smile, I continue.

Yeaaars ago, back in high school, somehow wires were crossed and I didn't have a ride home. This was in the time before everyone had a cell phone, so my options were even more limited. I knew I could walk home, but it was a 2.5 mile walk home, up some windy roads with blind corners and no sidewalks, so I was trying to figure out an option. I was grumpy at the world, but I started to walk. A few blocks from school, a cat was walking on a wall, noticed me and approached, so I petted it for a few minutes, which instantly brightened my mood.

Sometimes, it's the little things at the right moment that can change your mood for the better.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:29 AM on February 22, 2019 [11 favorites]

I was living alone in a second floor apartment. I went to one of those unfinished wood furniture stores and bought 2 book shelves: a 3 footer and a 5 footer, planning to stain and finish them myself.

I had a regular little car, so they help me put the 3 footer in the trunk and tie it down, I bring it home, go back and they put the 5 footer in. when I get home I realize I cannot get it out myself. so I'm standing there wondering what to do and these 2 boys (like 18) walk by and ask if I need help. yes! so they take the shelf out and carry it up the stairs into my apartment.

so I thank them profusely and the one kid says do I need help with anything else? sure! I joke, come back in an hour and help me finish them.

well about an hour later I get a knock on the door. it was the young guy. he came in and we went out on my little balcony and stained and varnished and chatted and had a really nice conversation. it was very sweet.
posted by supermedusa at 8:56 AM on February 22, 2019 [24 favorites]

I was in Chicago, taking the metra to the airport and just as the doors were closing, a young man hit the stop button and told me I was on the wrong train. He guessed from my luggage where I was headed, and he even helped me off quickly. I would have missed my flight for sure.

Once in Rome, in the little square outside the Pantheon, two girls were up in a window doing a puppet show with their stuffed animals for maybe a hundred captivated tourists below.
posted by mmmbacon at 9:59 AM on February 22, 2019 [28 favorites]

This seems like a good thread to share my favorite Robert Frost poem:

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

posted by skycrashesdown at 10:33 AM on February 22, 2019 [32 favorites]

Mother's Day in Canada in 2013 was May 12th. At that time my youngest son was 2 weeks old and my older son was just over 2 years old. We were all at a playground near my parents' condo. My 2 year-old didn't want to leave and was not listening to anything I said. I asked my parents to head back to their place with the baby, and that I would follow with the 2 year old. We were only about four blocks from their place but my son was insisting on being carried. I had had a c-section so there was no way I was able to do so and was trying to explain to my toddler that I was unable to carry him [and you can imagine how well that was going over]. My parents were long gone but wouldn't have been able to carry him either as they are quite elderly. However, an older couple were walking nearby and the woman asked to carry my son and did so, the whole way to my parents' place. I was so grateful. Her husband explained that he had a bad back and couldn't carry my son but I was so thankful and overwhelmed that this nice couple had stopped and completely helped out with my fussy toddler. My toddler luckily was happy to be carried and stopped fussing immediately.

Mother's Day isn't a holiday I am into but that is a day I'll never forget.
posted by biggreenplant at 10:37 AM on February 22, 2019 [15 favorites]

Here’s another Chicago story. Waaay back, shortly after the IPod was released, I was on the Mag Mile, waiting at a crosswalk for the light to turn. I’m messing my fabulous new toy, fascinated. A gentle tap on my shoulder — it’s a handsome cool dude, grinning like a Cheshire cat, slowly waving his iPod at me. He pulls his headphone jack out. I do, too, and we plug into each other’s iPods. He was listening to old school East coast rap; I was listening to early new wave. yeah, it sounds like a freaking commercial, I know. Moments later, we were off on our own merry.
posted by lemon_icing at 10:47 AM on February 22, 2019 [24 favorites]

I had just bought a new iPod and lost it . A few days later, I received an email at my work account that the sender* had my iPod and would I like to come get it? She was able to google me bc my gym card had a tiny copy of my drivers license taped to it. I was working at a non-profit at the time, making enough money to pay rent on a house-share and my student loans and eat, so the iPod loss was huge for me, in part due to finances but also I had just found a way to make exercise tolerable.

*She ruined it a little bit by telling me she was going to keep it until she found me on Google and realized I was a poor person doing cool work stuff.
posted by emkelley at 10:54 AM on February 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

Some kids at work made valentines for "ugly" animals, here's my favorite.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:10 AM on February 22, 2019 [28 favorites]

Back in the early 2000s, my boyfriend at the time was in the Marine Corps. He was deployed to the Middle East and at one point was in a country where he could call me from his cell phone, on which we had a family plan. A month later I received the bill: $400, which I could not afford (I was in college). I called up T-Mobile and told the rep how we had run up the bill. I asked to split it into two payment over 2 months and he was able to get it approved.

A few minutes after hanging up, I got a call from T-Mobile. The rep told me: "I'm in the [can't remember which branch] reserves. I told my supervisor your story and we were able to forgive the second half of your bill. Thank your boyfriend for his service."

I'm not with that boyfriend anymore, but I'm still with T-Mobile.
posted by CiaoMela at 11:15 AM on February 22, 2019 [20 favorites]

when I was in the Pantheon there was a random group of people signing acapella and the acoustics in that building are perfect. their voices floated and vibrated through the whole space beautifully. I mean the hairs were standing on the back of my neck...
posted by supermedusa at 11:24 AM on February 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

I live in NYC and take the subway to work. A couple months ago I was on a very crowded train and I wound up in one of the spots near the doors where you can’t reach a support pole, so I was awkwardly trying to keep my balance by reaching for the ceiling. A really tall guy next to me (who was able to reach a pole) realized I was having trouble and wordlessly offered me his arm. I was wearing headphones and he didn't even try to talk to me, just let me hold onto his arm for a bit and then when the train let more people off I moved and grabbed a pole and we exchanged a smile and that was it. Chivalry at its finest.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:38 AM on February 22, 2019 [16 favorites]

Apparently I posted this "I had a really nice day!" comment in the wrong thread. That's totally for you, WalkerWestridge.

I live in a remarkably peaceful and gentle place, and I often wish I could put it into a small, pleasant package like a moss terrarium and give it to someone in need like this.
posted by loquacious at 11:51 AM on February 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

Mrs. Biscuit's parents (my parents-in-law) are in their eighties. For many decades, they had two cottages side-by-side on the beach in a small town. The newer one was built by my father-in-law in 1967, and the older one built by his dad in the thirties.

They spend every summer up at the newer cottage, with the older one being rented out as a rental property by the week . Maybe ten years ago, they decided that it was getting to be too much trouble to maintain both of them, so they put the older one up for sale (with contents). It was bought for the land by a well-off thirtyish couple for the land -- they did not make an immediately great impression as they were going to bulldoze the whole thing with the contents inside; sure, they had no use for a fifty-year-old sofa and such, but they did let us go back in and find new homes for the dishes and the old TV and a few things.

The younger couple built a much larger house on the land: not quite a McMansion, but arguably a little outsized for the quiet beachfront street. However in the ensuing decade, they have turned out to be great neighbours. They cleared the encroaching reeds that gradually had taken over the beach (giving a dozen or more cottages clear access to the lake), they have been very generous with helping out the neighbourhood, and they have they now have two young kids who view my parents-in-law as surrogate grandparents.

The understanding was always that my parents-in-law were going to sell the other remaining cottage to the neighbours as well. This was initially planned for last year, then got moved up to this year at my mother-in-law's decision. It was inevitable, as even the maintenance for the single cottage is getting to be too much for the octogenarian couple. Mrs. Biscuit and our daughter were unhappy but accepting of the fact that the place that each of them spent all of their childhood summers was going to be taken away. My father-in-law -- who, after all, built the place -- was also having trouble with the idea, not least because he has the early stages of dementia and this would be a big part of his life pulled away from him.

A couple of weeks ago the couple called Mrs. Biscuit and said that because her parents have been such great neighbours, the plan as now to buy the cottage and leave it exactly as is for as long as her parents are still around and want to stay there for summers. This is an incredibly generous offer, and Mrs. Biscuit tears up whenever she talks about it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:58 AM on February 22, 2019 [39 favorites]

Once while riding my bike to work in a downpour and waiting at a light, the person stopped next to me offered me a ride the rest of the way to work (they had a pickup truck so could easily take the bike). Even though they were quite insistent I declined since I had my rain gear and the temperature was actually quite nice (I'm used to riding in all types of weather). The nicest part was that we were in opposite-direction turn lanes, so obviously they were prepared to go out of their way an unknown-to-them amount of miles.

Riding a bike gives many opportunities to be the helpful/fun stranger. I've moved a tree out of the road and helped pushed broken-down cars but my favorite was herding three dachshunds that were running all over the road back into someone's driveway.
posted by mikepop at 12:51 PM on February 22, 2019 [8 favorites]

Not a story about a stranger, just wanting to share that I am having a really good day. I'm working evenings this month and the shift has been difficult (4pm - 12:20 a.m.). So it's been hard to motivate myself during the day, I feel a bit like a zombie. Today I willed myself to not feel that way, went for a run, listened to a cool podcast, and bought myself an oatmeal cookie latte. It's Friday and the weekend is almost here and I'm not allowing myself to be down on myself. I wanted to share that with all of you fantastic folks. Here's hoping you're having a kick-ass day as well!
posted by Fizz at 12:56 PM on February 22, 2019 [11 favorites]

EmpressCallipygos' story upthread reminded me of being in Copenhagen, on the harbour front, where there are (or at least were then) several small, square trampolines built into the decking - unobtrusively enough that I almost fell into one before I realised what was going on.

There were various teenagers and students bouncing around and having a laugh; I joined in, did a couple of spins, got a bit of Danish respect for my attempted 720. Then, tock tock tock, along comes this high-powered businesswoman in high heels, black skirt suit and pearls, striding away. She takes one look at the scene, dumps her handbag, whips off her stilettos and bounces for a couple of glorious minutes in the midst of all these kids, cackling uproariously, before calmly reheeling, reclaiming her handbag and tock tock tocking on her way.
posted by aihal at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2019 [36 favorites]

A couple of weeks ago the couple called Mrs. Biscuit and said that because her parents have been such great neighbours, the plan as now to buy the cottage and leave it exactly as is for as long as her parents are still around and want to stay there for summers. This is an incredibly generous offer, and Mrs. Biscuit tears up whenever she talks about it.

Your story reminds me of something that happened with my Oma. She lived in Germany, and her only son, my Dad, lived in Canada. After Opa died, she was on her own for awhile, and then eventually her sister was able to escape from East Germany and came to live with her. We called her sister Kleine Oma, and they were two little old ladies living together in a small house. The house was on a shared garden space surrounded by about half a dozen other houses, some large and some small, and in one of the larger houses lived a man named Epi and his family.

As Epi's kids grew up, my Oma aged, and Epi gradually did more and more for Oma and Kleine Oma. When his kids had finally left home and Epi and his wife had retired, they started to think about selling their big house moving to a smaller, cheaper condo that would be closer to their long since grown children.

But they didn't.

They didn't move to a smaller house, because someone needed to stay nearby and take care of my Oma and Kleine Oma. Who were no relation to them at all. Just friends that they had come to love and take care of. They stayed in that house until Oma and Kleine Oma both died and only then did they move away.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:40 PM on February 22, 2019 [33 favorites]

Not strangers but:
I give my kid a hug when I drop him off at daycare and he has a classmate who just always seems to need a hug so with the ok of the staff I’ve been giving him a hug too. In the past days this has extended to the point where I’m giving group hugs to as many as five toddlers at once. Some of them come back for seconds. And thirds.

I recently attended the funeral of the man whose been my parents neighbor since we moved into that house when I was one. One of the things consistently mentioned by people speaking of him at the funeral was how he gave good hugs.

I can only hope that this is how people would remember me.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:01 PM on February 22, 2019 [27 favorites]

There is this really quite shy guy in his 60s who often stands outside the store selling a street magazine "Faktum" - not sure whether he is actually homeless, but certainly seems without a regular income. He also often takes the train that I occasionally take.
He owns a very polite auburn fluffy middle-aged midsize dog who usually goes without a leash (even in the train), at-his-side-no-matter-what-loyal, and doesn't mind other people so much. A kind but busy and serious dog. A drive-by sniff at an outstretched hand and a quick side-eye is the maximum of what you usually get from her.

So in January one day we had a nice fluffy layer of new snow. I am standing at the train platform and along come guy and dog, and she (the dog) began gallivanting about in the snow like a puppy - I observed her for a while and there she came flip-flopping toward and past me, looking at me with the hugest dog-grin. "I saw that you saw me and yes: I'm having FUN today!"

I ended up chatting with the guy about dogs and snow.
posted by Namlit at 2:55 PM on February 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

It snowed in Tucson today, for the first time in several years, and enough for substantial snow to stick for the first time since I moved here. It's not too uncommon to get snow up in the foothills, but in the city itself it's quite rare. I walked to campus today and wandered around a bit before my first meeting. All the people were out marveling at the snow, admiring the cactus, tossing snowballs and making snowmen for the five-hour window that it was possible. Everywhere I went I heard people talking about it. The general air of amazement was delightful.
posted by egregious theorem at 5:22 PM on February 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

There is little that's better than a dog in a rare snow that's happy to be in the snow. So much bounding and grinning. When we let out the giant derpy sweetheart pitbull-boxer here at the house we couldn't get him to come inside and he just took off like a rocket in snow as deep as his knee-high head. Dude was doing barrel rolls and somersaults and shit.
posted by loquacious at 5:46 PM on February 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

Not strangers but:

Yeah, I realized a bit after the fact that my story above was only very slightly about strangers: the couple buying the cottage and my in-laws are of course next-door neighbours, but they are virtually strangers to me: we wave and call hello occasionally, but if a million dollars rode on the answer, I could not tell you their last names.

However, I do have a pleasant stranger story: two nights ago, coming home in the freezing rain after a week of miserable winter weather, I slipped on a patch of wet ice at the corner of my street. With my traction gone AWOL, gravity steeped up become the newly most important force at work in my trajectory, and I fell onto my back like a six-foot-two, 275-pound domino, lightly kissing the back of my skull onto the ice.

A car midway through a right turn stopped and the twentysomething driver jumped out to make sure I was okay. I was clambering back to my feet by the time he got to me; I was more embarrassed than injured (and was mostly hoping I had not landed on the bag of groceries I was carrying), and said I was unhurt. Then he offered to give me a lift home.

I don't drive and I had just alighted from a city bus. I live in a verrry car-friendly town so perhaps he realized that the suburb I was entering, I could conceivably have faced a two-kilometre walk home down this road -- half an hour in pleasant weather, ninety minutes of treacherous misery in the weather we had Wednesday night. As it happens, I live close to the corner where I toppled, and I was about sixty metres from my front door.

I waved him off, thanked him, and said something about it being about a four-second drive to my place. I am not sure he quite understood what I meant -- probably figured I was experiencing the first signs of a concussion. Anyway, he urged that I be careful walking home, then went on his way. It wasn't until we had parted ways that I realized his generosity in offering after dark to drive a complete stranger, much bigger than him, off to an unknown destination. Thanks in absentia, random driver guy!

Incidentally, I wonder if decades-ago judo lessons may have helped me fall better. As I was falling backwards, the teaching to fling my arms out and slap them on the mat to spread out the impact flashed through my head (which was accelerating towards the sidewalk). The only soreness I have forty-eight hours later is, oddly, the tendons at the front of my neck (presumably from pulling my head forward to avoid the impact). Whatever combination of autonomic nervous system and judo sensei spared me from cracking my skull on the ground, thank you!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:51 PM on February 22, 2019 [17 favorites]

I live down the block from a high school, and now that I telecommute a bit I’ve come to recognize a crew of boys who don’t seem to go to class that often. Last week I was out shoveling snow while they meandered to one kid’s truck* down the street. After they all inspected and admired the kid’s newly-repaired fishing rod (?!), they passed me on the sidewalk, and the most hard core punk rocker of the group looked me in the eye and said, “Thanks for shoveling, ma’am.”

I have never been so earnestly ma’am-ed in my life, and it was surprisingly lovely.

* The fishing rod repairman has a tendency to leave his headlights on and never locks his doors, so after I drop my own kid off at the bus stop I sometimes reach in and turn off his headlights so he can drive home.
posted by Maarika at 7:35 PM on February 22, 2019 [14 favorites]

I'm so sorry that happened to you, WalkerWestridge.

On Thanksgiving, I was waiting for the subway with my snazzy new meta tote bag, which features a picture of a dog in a tote bag. (MTA rules dictate that you can bring your dog on the subway if it's in a bag.) A woman admired it and wound up chatting with me for my whole 20 minute train ride. She even had a picture of a dog in a bag that she shared in exchange.

(PSA: Subscribe to Signal Problems, home of dog in a bag photos, if you are at all interested in NYC transportation issues!)
posted by ferret branca at 8:50 PM on February 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

For being a northern state, Ohio has a lot in common with the South, for better or worse. Men tend to be chivalrous, not in an obnoxious overblown way but just sort of "raised right" as they would say. They will jump up and offer their seat to a woman without a second thought. Back in my younger days when I drove crappy cars with crappy tires that tended to go flat a lot, I never had to change my own tire. I knew how, having also been "raised right" but I never had to because every time it happened a man always stopped to help. One time an elderly man, another time a teenage boy... men of all ages would stop whatever they were doing and cheerfully volunteer to take over.

One time I was at the mall with my grandma, waiting in line at a kiosk to buy her a new watch band, and a scruffy-looking middle-aged dude who was also in line mentioned he'd seen a person at a store on the other side of the mall giving out coupons. My grandma said she wished she'd gotten one, so this dude said "I'll go get you one!" and took off walking at top speed, with a pronounced limp, all the way through the mall to bring back the coupon for my grandma.

I also once had a man in Ohio interrupt a conversation my dad and I were having in a Christian bookstore regarding creationism, to huffily inform us with finality that the earth is only six thousand years old. So you take the bad with the good... lol.

Anyway, recently I went out of town to take a training class with some other people in my industry who came from various regions of the US. I wound up sitting in the back of the large classroom, and there was one point where I couldn't see something on the board very well so I walked up towards the front and stood to the side where I could see better. The man sitting closest to me immediately jumped up and said "would you like to sit?" I appreciated the offer but declined. And then I remembered I'd met him briefly at a dinner a few months before, and he was from Ohio. Made me a bit nostalgic for home.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:52 AM on February 23, 2019 [8 favorites]

I took this thread as inspiration: I'm at the old place just now, once again sorting through stuff and organizing repair people etc. and when I biked to the store I saw that the handyman with his garage-hardware store who is helping people of his own generation repair their lawnmowers and mailboxes and whatnot was there.
(He used to own a real hardware store; when he retired, he closed the store but took the part of the business that was most cherished by the ageing part of the community with him to his garage).

I didn't even use to know the man very well. When I was a kid and he in his 30s he resided over his store with an air like Sean Connery (elegant, inscrutable and In Charge, especially when little kids would nick some bubble gum...[which I didn't, but anyway]); not someone a kid would have a chummy relationship with. But he did help my parents with tech stuff in their last years and so now, 54 years after I bought my first lego boxes there, he does know who I am.

So, well, on the way back I went into his shop and said I just wanted to come by to see how he was doing, and offered him the (tiny, but functional) lawnmower my mom had been using. I guess I made his day; we chatted for a long while.

[Now I have to locate the blasted shed keys to even be able to retrieve that mower. Sigh]
posted by Namlit at 4:23 AM on February 23, 2019 [9 favorites]

I have a bumper sticker on my car that says “Any Functioning Adult: 2020”.
I was filling up my car at a local gas station when a tiny woman, probably in her eighties, came up to me, apologized for bothering me, and said “ I just HAD to ask you where you got this wonderful bumper sticker!” We had a wonderful 2-minute conversation about our mutual outrage ( at one point she shook her fist and said “I don’t trust ANYONE into that White House and I’m just not so sure about Congress anymore either!”) and she turned to go back to her car. She then came back and said “Can I give you a hug?” We shared that hug in the middle of a busy self-serve gas station and I still smile and remember her whenever I fill up my car.
posted by bookmammal at 7:21 AM on February 23, 2019 [14 favorites]

I'm going through A Lot Of Stuff at the moment. I was waiting to be picked up outside my therapist's office yesterday, in the freezing cold, when some random lady walked by and enthusiastically complimented my (homemade) hat. I think my heart grew five sizes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:01 AM on February 23, 2019 [17 favorites]

A few years ago I had a bad case of bronchitis and a sinus infection. I had just been to the doctor and pharmacy to get meds. and was coming home. (It is relevant to this story that my apartment is a bit of an uphill trudge from the subway.) Anyway, as I was trudging up the biggest incline (coughing a bit as I went) a random man stopped me and asked me if he could give me a ride home. I thanked him but declined the offer since I was only 3 blocks from home at that point. A couple of blocks later, a local taxi pulled up and also offered me a ride home, at no charge. I was really only steps from home at that point so again declined, but it definitely made this very sick woman feel a little bit better about humanity because 2 random people were worried enough about me to want to see me safely home.
posted by gudrun at 11:15 AM on February 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

I was in Grant Park in 2008 watching the election results come in. The crowd was huge and joyful. When they finally called it for Obama, the elderly Polish woman standing next to me grabbed me and we waltzed around for a bit. We were both crying, and eventually someone else cut in, but she started it and it was amazing.
posted by coppermoss at 2:46 PM on February 23, 2019 [15 favorites]

The nicest interactions I have had on mass transit has been on the London Underground. Because the Underground is very mature, you do not have elevators on every platform. This is a right pain if you have a stroller and are wresting children by yourself. Without fail, someone would always help me with the stroller over flights of stairs to get to my destination. London is also the only place where very pregnant me was offered seats in vehicles.

Oh here is another, while in Japan while traveling around someone would always offer to help me get to where I was going. I figured my universal sign of tourist, a Lonely Planet guide, was an open invitation.
posted by jadepearl at 3:03 PM on February 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

Just 10 minutes ago had a great conversation with a police officer in my back yard about native plants and fruit trees. (He and his colleagues were looking for a neighbor’s escaped rescue pig, who’d been trying to get herself into people’s homes.) We walked out streetside, convinced that Katie was not lurking in my hedges any longer. Joined a crowd of neighbors, talking about what kind of pets and/or livestock everyone had. (I didn’t mention my mice. Katie’s barn has a resident cat named Mousetrap. People with agricultural leanings don’t tend to have mice as pets.)

This is Parkland, Florida. It’s been a tough year for us here, and February’s anniversary has hit everyone hard. It was lovely to have a big multi-cultural group of neighbors and police laughing and talking, swapping plant and animal stories. Avocados. Peaches. And I’m happy to report that Katie made it home safely.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 4:11 PM on February 23, 2019 [18 favorites]

A few days ago, I was waiting in line at a customer service desk and the woman in front of me had a very complex problem. Taking even longer, the clerk couldn't resolve it and had to go find a manager. The woman turned around and apologized to me for making me wait so long and I told her not to worry, that since I have a comfy place to sit (indicating my wheelchair), that I am never in a hurry.

I was still smiling while I waited and a young man walked past with his purchases and went out the door. He came right back in and said, "You must be a happy person, you have such a happy smile." I laughed, and he said, "and your laugh is even better." Then he blushed, and quickly went back out of the door. I'm still laughing every time I think of it.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 5:00 PM on February 23, 2019 [14 favorites]

escaped rescue pig is really all I needed to read. Nope, can’t top that. My day is now complete!
posted by bookmammal at 5:59 PM on February 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

I was wandering one of the islands near the capital one day when a guy driving a service vehicle cruises past me, skids to a stop, and invites me to hop in. In the spirit of why not I comply, and over the course of the drive proceed to learn that he lives and works on this island in the summer months. They're prepping for a little lights festival that evening but he's got time for a sauna, I should join him.

So over the course of an afternoon and evening this guy and I talk and wander about. He shows me about the private/staff accommodation area of the island, we talk, drink some beers, smoke a bit, talk some more, heat the staff sauna, and eventually we continue to talk as I watch him mix up a massive batch of crepe batter to serve the evening's visitors. In the end he had too much work to do but handed me a couple beers, encouraging me to take sauna myself (during which I rather memorably leapt naked into the sea in full view of a ferry full of passengers which chose that precise moment to sail round the island into view). After which I wandered the light festival, hung about, relaxed at his booth, and then we closed up and rode the ferry back to the mainland before going our separate ways.

I was in the midst of a really difficult time and had expected to spend a solitary and somewhat lonely afternoon alone on this island, as nobody I knew was available/interested in this lights festival. Instead I had a wonderfully unexpected day with a cool, interesting person I never saw again, and who had no motive beyond kindness and camaraderie. After a series of shite, sad, stressful and disappointing experiences with fellow humans it was lovely to be reminded that not everybody is awful.
posted by myotahapea at 8:30 PM on February 23, 2019 [13 favorites]

When I lived in Maine, I had to drive up a bit of a hill to get home and one year during a winter storm my car was just not getting traction. A bunch of people who were out shoveling or just walking home came and pushed me until I could get moving again.

Last year I met my next door neighbor following a snow storm. I had to move my car so the plows could come through, and he was the person on the street who, whenever there is a snow emergency, goes out with his shovel and helps everyone dig out and get their cars moved. He was incredibly sweet about it, said that if he didn't help people he knew his mom would be disappointed. For me especially since I walk with a cane, handling a snow shovel isn't trivial and I really appreciated that.

This past year I moved into a new place, and my next door neighbor helps me when I have to move my car. He and my roommate helped me get out of the spot I had to vacate, and then when I was turning the corner to try to park I hit another snowdrift and someone from the next block over came and helped me.

Snow brings out certain kindnesses.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:22 AM on February 24, 2019 [8 favorites]

Years ago I was traveling with 2 friends in Japan. I can't remember which city it was (I think either Kyoto or Osaka) where we stayed in a more traditional (vs Western-style) hotel. The little old lady who ran it had like half a dozen small dogs. We arrived in the evening to check in, and the next morning the owner came to tell us that the hot water wasn't working. She said she owned a (vacant) apartment a few blocks away and asked us if we'd like to use the shower there, which we agreed to do. She and a couple of her dogs accompanied us over to the apartment, at which point she just handed us the keys and said to return them when we were done. I realize now probably there's not much to distrust about 3 foreigners traveling (like, we weren't going to pawn her TV or something), but still I found it extraordinarily kind and trusting of her to do this.
posted by axiom at 2:39 PM on February 24, 2019 [6 favorites]

Not quite strangers, exactly, but I have a coworker at a place I started at recently who picks up both his dog and his young daughter on Friday afternoons and takes them to the shop floor with him until he leaves around 5. The dog is an adorable boxer puppy, and she was the first being I saw a few Fridays ago while heading to get a snack, so of course I stopped to gush over her and get my face licked. I made sure to say hi to his daughter, too, but she seemed very shy and gave me a quiet “hi” back without making eye contact, so I wished them all a good afternoon and went on my way.

So last Friday, I went to get a snack again, and the dog and the young girl were sitting in the area, and she was reading. I didn’t want to interrupt her, but of course I had to snuggle the dog, and so when I left the dog ran after me. I figured the daughter had been tasked with watching the dog, so I grabbed the dog’s leash and walked her back to the seating area. The daughter looked up from her book and noticed both that the dog had gone and that I’d brought her back, and gave me a beaming thank you and a hug, and there’s just something about getting that response from a shy child that blasted apart maybe five or six layers of the calcified crust around my heart in a single instant.
posted by invitapriore at 8:49 PM on February 24, 2019 [13 favorites]

I hope I'm not the last person to post because this one is kind of mixed. On the one hand, inspiring kindness from strangers. On the other hand the warm fuzzies are not unalloyed; the story contains layers of discomfit and terror. So I'm hoping somebody supplies a chaser.

The alternator went out on my car on hwy 24 at like 10 o'clock at night when I was driving back from teaching English composition in the tiny town of Starke, Florida, which is near Raiford, Florida, which is where the state prison is where they executed Ted Bundy and a bunch of people, and from which people escape periodically. I just barely managed to get the car off of the road onto the shoulder with the dwindling power from the dying battery. There are no lights out there. It's pitch, pitch black, and this was pushing 20 years ago, and I didn't have a cel phone then. I had no hazards, of course, because the alternator went out so the battery was dead. I sat there for a while with my teeth chattering from the car-drops-out-from-under-you adrenaline rush. Cars whizzed by and the car would rock every time a big truck passed. I was there maybe 10 minutes sitting in the car hoping nobody would hit me and wondering what to do, and then I realized I was either going to sit there for the rest of my life or walk eleven miles to town or flag somebody down. So I got out and stood there on the side of the road. Now there was even more adrenaline jitters. Plus I used to drink coffee all the way up until bedtime back then. Not a relaxing evening.

At first I stood a safe distance from the road and was just subtly waving a little bit, the way you do when you hope not to attract too much attention from prison escapees, but after about fifteen minutes of that, I realized I was going to need to quit worrying so much about murder and step up my performance. Eventually I was jumping and waving my arms with abandon dangerously close to the road so that I'd be visible in the headlights. Presently a pickup veered off the road and then backed up to me. I hoped that it was not a truck full of murder. It turned out to contain a very kind drunk guy and his very kind drunk son, who were riding down the road hooking beers through the back window out of a cooler in the bed. You know, like you do at 10:45 at night on the back roads of Florida in the late nineties. I know this because they got fresh ones and I think they offered me one. The drunk father let me use his cel phone to call triple A and triple A asked whether I was in a safe place and I said no, not really, not so much, so they called the highway patrol. Then the two of drunk guys very kindly waited with me until highway patrol came into view, whereupon they split the scene just in time, driving carefully and keeping to the speed limit until they were well out of sight.

I think of them often with mixed gratitude and terror. Thanks again, hero drunk drivers!

So you see, it's mixed.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:08 PM on February 25, 2019 [18 favorites]

The day before Valentine's this year, my 88 y.o. mom went out to her mailbox and found on her doorstep a bunch of yellow tulips some unknown and glorious person left for her. We have no idea who did it. It's a lovely mystery.
posted by mightshould at 4:54 PM on February 25, 2019 [7 favorites]

5 years ago, my father was in a terrible accident and was helicoptered to the hospital. In a panic, I jumped on a train from NYC up to Albany, not knowing if my father was going to make it. I sat on that train in the middle of the night, terrified, trying to keep from losing it completely. This random college kid sitting next to me noticed I was upset and asked me what was wrong. The whole scary story poured out and he listened, and then he talked to me for two hours about movies, podcasts, whatever he could think of to calm me down and keep me from losing my mind.

We became facebook friends and spoke online a few times after that, but I will probably never see him again. But I will never ever forget how he helped get me through the scariest night of my life. Thank you, Sean.
posted by silverstatue at 7:28 PM on February 25, 2019 [21 favorites]

Ooh and here's another less dramatic one. Recently I was having a really bad day. Work had been particularly hard and I felt completely beat down and defeated. I trudged up the subway steps into the pouring rain, and was just about to cross the street when this woman behind me got my attention. She said "hey is this yours?" and held out the tiny gold bracelet I had been wearing. Somehow it had come off my arm while I was fighting my way through rush hour in the crowded subway and she happened to see the second it fell and managed to grab it and run after me! I mean, it's impossible that she saw that tiny little bracelet fall. But she did! And I got it back! I was so happy. I'm still happy, a week later.
posted by silverstatue at 7:47 PM on February 25, 2019 [10 favorites]

When my daughter was about three we moved to a house near a playground, so we frequented it often. I encouraged her to take initiative and ask other kids if they wanted to play with her, if that's what she wanted.

One late evening when she was five-ish we were there alone and she was happily doing whatever when two older (twelve or thirteen) girls came into the playground to just hang out. My daughter asked me if she could ask them to play, so I said sure but set her expectations low. So she asked and they declined. But then five minutes later Tiffany and Brittany had a change of heart and asked her if she still wanted to play. They all played together for fifteen minutes or so and my kid was thrilled and it was a nice moment all around.
posted by mikepop at 6:22 AM on February 27, 2019 [8 favorites]

I was recently stuck in a train station for hours and passed the time doing yarn work. The station was crowded. One woman seemed especially stressed, obsessively making phone calls to what were apparently family members. At one point I overheard her saying, “I wish I knew how to crochet so I’d have something to do when stuck someplace, I’m going crazy here.” I gathered my bags and moved to a seat near her. “C’mon, I’ll teach you how to crochet!” I declared.

I gave her one of my extra hooks and a ball of yarn, and got her started on a simple scarf. She caught on quickly and we had a lot of fun working through the process. Time passed quickly as we chattered and laughed.

The train never did come that night but at least it didn’t feel like time wasted. When I last saw her, Olivia was crocheting away happily and was much calmer, which made me feel great.
posted by kinnakeet at 2:36 AM on February 28, 2019 [8 favorites]

So - a couple... We have 3 dogs, ranging in size from a tiny little Chihuahua to a massive Daniff. They, as dogs tend to do, like to look out the windows and bark... At squirrels, chipmunks, people walking their dogs and kids going to school. They are not horrible, just being dogs.

Yesterday - I came upstairs from my basement lair (um, home office) as kids were walking to school - and I noticed the biggest guy with his head between the curtains peering out the window quietly - on alert, but not barking - and so I looked out as well - and there were a group of about 4-5 kids trudging through the snow, who had stopped to stare at him and wave... He started wagging his tale.

Next one - last summer, I was picking up some takeout from one of the local pizza places - and waiting for my order to be ready - in came a family with several kids, who also had to wait - at one point a little guy 3-4 got confused as to who his dad was and began hugging my leg, hanging off me. The dad was in-front of me - when he turned around and noticed, we exchanged grins - made me nostalgic for when my kids at that age.

Heh - now that I am an old guy (as of 9:25pm on Tuesday night, a grandpa even) - there are many times when parents with young kids get embarrassed by how they might be acting - give me worried looks while I am waiting (restaurant, store, etc.) - I always give them a "knowing" smile, sometimes telling them - "hey, it's ok - they are kids and mine were just the same".
posted by jkaczor at 12:30 PM on February 28, 2019 [6 favorites]

Congratulations! Grandkids are the best.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:42 PM on February 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Congratulations! Grandkids are the best.

Heh - thanks, all the fun - and don't have to stress about things...
posted by jkaczor at 1:56 PM on February 28, 2019

We (me, my husband, my one year old, my dad and his girlfriend) were in the Muni elevator along with a guy who looked clearly unwell. He was holding a portable speaker so my dad asked him how long the battery lasted. He said eleven hours and he'd been out busking, singing Christmas carols, bit had to leave early cause he was feeling sick. My dad told him he needed to drink ginger ale and the guy said he'd had a Coke and it hadn't helped, but my dad insisted it had to be ginger ale. Then the elevator ride finished and that was the end of the conversation.

A few hours later, we were headed back to the station when we passed a guy singing Christmas carols. We did a double take and realized it was the same guy! My dad ran back to put some money in his jar and the guy toasted him with his bottle of Canada Dry ginger ale!
posted by carolr at 7:56 PM on February 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

Cycling my kid to school yesterday, a seagull crapped all over my arm. Not a great story for me, granted, but my kid found it hilarious.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:39 AM on March 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

I got off the rental car shuttle at Logan a few weeks ago and saw a Maine driver license on the sidewalk. I picked it up and pocketed it, thinking I'd drop it in the mail when I got home.

When I got up to the precheck podium, there was a fellow frantically rifling through his wallet, with his wife already through. "Hey, are you [dig license out of pocket] Ernie Bertson?"

It was Ernie Bertson, and as it happened he and his wife were also flying to MN to visit their daughter, on the very same JetBlue flight.

About an hour later when I asked the Johnny Rockets server for my check it turned out it had already been paid.
posted by chazlarson at 9:09 AM on March 4, 2019 [9 favorites]

The second time I went to NYC it was for a conference and I was by myself, lugging an enormous suitcase (probably weighed about 1/3 my body weight). Within five minutes of my arrival at the subway stop near my hotel, the following things happened:

-a middle aged man in a business suit who saw me staring at the map in the station politely approached and asked if I needed help;
-a young man with a skateboard who saw me standing at the bottom of the giant staircase to the street wordlessly asked if he could carry my suitcase up for me, and did so;
-an elderly lady who saw me checking my hotel address before crossing the street with my giant suitcase asked me if I needed help with directions.

A few days later, after the conference was over, I joined a food tour of Greenwich Village. When the other group members (all elderly locals; I was the only person who didn't live in NYC) found out I was visiting from Canada, they made it their project to suggest their favourite restaurants, off-Broadway plays, and sights to see. One lady gave me her address and phone number "in case I needed help" while in the city.

I have a very soft spot and immense affection for New Yorkers.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:52 PM on March 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

A couple of days after Anthony Bourdain died I was out at a bar with a friend. It was a warm evening and we were on the patio which faces an alley way. My friend was smoking and a woman wandered up out of the alley and asked for a light. She asked us if we knew where a restaurant was, apparently it was Bourdain's favorite place in the city. We didn't know about it but decided to help her find it since she was from out of town. We ended up hanging out with her at this amazing pop-up restaurant for a couple of hours, just talking and trying different dishes. She was in town visiting family and it sounded like she needed a break from them and had decided to go out and find this place on her own. She turned out to be an interesting person, and she has a catering business so I follow her instagram for good food pictures now.
posted by arachnidette at 5:51 PM on March 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

A couple of years ago I was in Chicago for U2 concerts. They had a couple of shows, a couple of days off, then a couple more shows, so I was taking a train home (to downstate Illinois) for a night or two and then coming right back – doing it that way was a lot cheaper for me. Anyway, I had called down to the front desk of my hotel to ask for a cab to take me to Union Station, but when I got to the lobby, nobody had done so. A friendly staff member immediately offered to take me in the hotel shuttle, which I hadn’t been going to bother with since I was by myself. So he helped me into this big clunky hotel van and off we went.

The driver’s English was quite good but clearly not his first language. He was listening to public radio and we had made just a little small talk. When suddenly the radio announced the Obergefell decision, in which the Supreme Court decided marriage equality was constitutionally protected. I immediately burst into tears – delighted, ecstatic tears – and saw the driver’s concerned look in the mirror. I managed to gesture meaningfully at the radio, and the driver nodded knowingly. “Good news for you?” he asked. I nodded. “For me, and for my friends.” For history! For America! I couldn’t speak very well just then. “I have a niece and nephew who’ll be happy,” the driver said. We grinned at each other via the rear-view mirror. At the station he got out my suitcase and I gave him what I hope was a big tip, and shook hands in grateful solidarity. I floated to my gate, still beaming and crying. What a day. I’m so glad that lovely gentleman was there to share it with me.
posted by Occula at 12:38 PM on March 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

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