I was loving the people watching experiences of traveling on the London Underground last night. My first time back in this city for a few years, and nothing much had changed aside from the prevalence of smart phones being such a big distraction. There were still people putting on makeup, looking bored, reading a newspaper, but most were buried in cellphone land, barely changing state as they entered and exited the train. I noted one woman further down the carriage was reading a book, and smiled. Not everything had changed then. Not yet anyway.
A couple of hours later and a young man was sitting next to me; glancing up for a moment from a book he was reading. I took that moment to touch him on and arm and say, “I’m a publisher, and it’s lovely to see people still read books on trains”. It turned out, he was reading not just any book, but an old hard covered, well appreciated, Daphne Du Maurier. This young man was inspired by my words to start a conversation about the author, his passion for books, and his work in a bookstore nearby. We both got off at Westminster, and found our conversation extended by several stops along the jubilee line, and by the time we exited from our shared next train connection about 10 minutes later, we had exchanged first names, smiles, and I had an invitation to attend a book launch at his store next Thursday.
I rode over to this side of the world yesterday in a crowded plane, seated next to a woman of similar age and appearance, who slept while I read, or watched movies. Then with only about two hours left of the flight, we started talking and finally introduced ourselves. A shared passion for some deeply philosophical topics, and we parted with exchanged contact details and a hug at the baggage carousel a short time later.
A comment, a shared interest, and the willingness by each of us to have a conversation. Ahh the joys of traveling and meeting perfect strangers. I lamented the intrusive nature of the cellphone distractions and all those conversations that will never happen in the world as a result of our increasing societal inability to look up, or even know how to talk to someone new.
It’s a sad indictment on our 21st Century modern lifestyles that we simply miss the chance to gather our thoughts and talk them over with someone new. We’re either too afraid, lacking the communication skills, or simply too full of our own stuff each day to take the time to connect. Our social media presence and friendships are shallow, misguided, and incomplete, and our ability to just be fully present in our relationships is often deeply challenged by time constraints and communication illiteracy.
Imagine if there was declared an international ‘talk to someone new’ day, instead of ‘talk like a pirate’ day or ‘hug a ginger’ day. It’s got my vote. (I’m a happy ginger who loves to talk with strangers, not have them come up and hug me randomly anyway.)
#CuratingConversations #StrangersOnPlanes #JoyOfTravelling