Contrary to what mom said, the odds are long that you are sharing the line for a caramel double latte with a thief or mass murderer. Our refusal to talk to the living breathing humans next to us, must have a negative impact, based on our social and tribal heritage. If I have to wait in line for more than a few seconds, I quick-draw my phone, confirm I haven't missed any critical videos on social media and then shift to clearing out duplicate photos or contacts. Whatever I have to do to ensure those around me know that I am too busy saving the world to have a discussion. I spent ten hours on a plane last week, in a center seat, and didn't say a word to those on either side of me. Honestly, was there nothing of value I could either learn or a way I could encourage them? I shudder at my own hypocrisy. I bemoan my busy life and inability to meet new people, yet I don't take advantage of the opportunities that surround me. I once heard that there are no uninteresting people, just uninspiring questions. A friend recently moved to central Virginia and he recounted stories of encountering people that were genuinely curious about him, did not want anything from him and wished him well when they parted. Living in the DC area for nearly 20 years, this seemed a really strange and now I struggle with the possibility that he is a pathological liar. Could places like this really exist? It's a good possibility that you're sharing the line with someone that hasn't spoken to a stranger in years and would benefit from shattering the "mass murder in the latte line" myth by actually speaking to a stranger. There is a risk, so be cautious. I was in the supermarket express line buying laundry soap and plastic wrap, and waved to the three year old boy in the line in front of me. The mother's eyes flashed with worry and she drew him close to her legs without another look in my direction. The good news is that you are not as intimidating as me and probably don't have hair that looks like a chia pet, so you have a lower risk assessment of being thought of as the scary guy. We are social beings that need interaction, human interaction that includes looking someone in the eyes and smiling. Give it a try and know that it could always be worse; you could be terrifying like me.
What keeps you from engaging with those you encounter? What stereotypes do you default to when meeting others? What is a realistic worst case scenario? What humorous stories do you have when meeting strangers? What is your best story from and encounter with a stranger? What is a step you can take to engage with those you don't know?