I sat down, turned to my right and asked: “How are you doing?”
Within minutes he was staring back at me in stunned surprise that he had just shared such personal details with a complete stranger, me.
Off he went in his Uber and after a minute I also departed with my Uber Eats order and a smile on my face.
Yet again, I had experienced the immense power of being a stranger.
We don’t often think about it, but in the same way that someone who has known us our entire existence holds a special position in our lives, so a stranger who has absolutely no clue who we are, holds an equally special position.
They have no history, no context, nothing to influence how they perceive you apart from the you in that very moment you share with them.
In the moments you share with a stranger, you both are engaging on one of the most unique platforms in existence. You are nothing more than what you are in that moment and they are nothing less than what you see in them then and there.
No History Clears the Path
With no history to get in the way, every time you meet a new stranger you have a clean slate to express who you are, what you stand for in life, and what is important to you.
Sitting with a friend, a colleague or a family member does not afford you that clean slate.
The lack of history clears the path for an amazing interaction.
When I sat down next to the stranger waiting for his Uber, I had no intention of speaking with him.
I merely did what I do with most people, I said, “Hello, how are you.”
It was the far-off tone and tired sound hidden in his response that caused me to listen further. Without asking more of him, remaining silent but still looking at him after he finished his initial reply, he began explaining how tough things were at the moment.
He had worked for years to earn the position he now held that enabled him to travel and do what he loved but now with a wife at home taking care of their 2-year-old with another one the way, he didn’t know what he was going to do.
I simply replied with honesty and told him I could not possibly understand how difficult that was since I had no children nor wife of my own. But that I am sure that his wife loves him, understands what he is going through and that he will find a way forward with time.
After perking up a bit and explaining the strings he was trying to pull to transition back to spending more time with his young family, he glanced down at his phone to see a message indicating his Uber had arrived.
The message broke the spell and he looked up at me as if for the first time recognizing that I was just a stranger in shorts, flip flops and a wrinkled hoodie sitting outside the hotel with him.
He thanked me for listening and left.
My Uber Eats arrived shortly thereafter with the wrong order — but it was delicious.
Strangers in the night
Frank Sinatra sings about finding unexpected love in the night.
“Strangers in the night, two lonely people
We were strangers in the night
Up to the moment when we said our first hello
Little did we know
Love was just a glance away, a warm embracing dance away”
Apart from being one of the best songs loaded onto my first iPhone, this song captures a bit of the significant world that lies just under the surface of two strangers engaging with one another.
I am not talking about love, specifically. Rather, I am talking about the entire world of connection that is open to anyone who simply acknowledges it to be there.
The next time you find yourself sitting on a bench with a stranger while waiting for your Uber Eats order (which most likely will be incorrect), say hello and remember that you just stepped onto a unique platform of immense significance bringing two strangers’ worlds together for just a moment.