I love chitchatting with strangers. In my random encounters with strangers, I’ve met a F-22 fighter pilot, Swedish merchant marines, and a little Japanese lady who taught me how to make an offering in a Buddist temple. This week I chatted with the man at the post office and found out he is a jazz musician who plays the sax and married a Filipina movie star. I love those first few moments of possibility when you first strike up a conversation with someone. When you talk to strangers, you could be talking to anybody.
Today after work I met a “doctor.” I say “doctor” because most likely he wasn’t really one. Marzie and I were meeting some co-workers for drink at the club on Hickam Air Force base. As we were walking up to the door to go in, we were stopped by a man asking for our help.
He began the conversation by asking us what services we were in, which I thought was strange because we were both in uniform, but I let it slide in the spirit of verisimilitude (sidebar – verisimilitude is one of my absolute favorite words in the English language. Use it in a sentence today). He proceeded to tell us how he wanted to meet some military women who could help him with his problem and he was looking for someone to help him with his injury you see he hurt his foot and everyone was ignoring him and the people in Waikiki had messed him up with acupuncture and no one would help him because they didn’t think he should be part of the system but he was a veteran and a doctor and the gay organizations have chased him out of America and by the way he wasn’t gay, he likes women.
Now during the conversation I recognized that specific instance when I realized that the stranger I was talking to was crazy. After my initial amusement, I began to think practically of the best method of extracting Marzie and myself from the situation. But sense was suspended as I was pulled into a conversational black hole of conspiracy theories and veiled solicitations for at least 20 minutes. As I searched my mind for something to say, I finally latched upon the idea to recommend the VA hospital, and Marzie brilliantly offered that we had a very important meeting to be getting to. As we managed to escape, he looked at us with a disapproving expression and informed us with a firm statement that he had never hurt anybody.
The beauty of interacting with strangers is that you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Judgment is suspended for a moment, and you are presented with a person of whom you have no substantial opinion. You have the mere surface clues, like whether the person is young or old, dirty or clean or, well, sane or crazy. Homeboy had seemed normal enough to start with. But until you begin talking, you can’t begin to piece together the reality of one’s life. The reality of our doctor’s is that he’s not all there.
Still, I believe that we can never meet another person and remain unchanged, even if it is just in some small way. From our doctor, I found that I’m glad I’ve not been messed up by acupuncture and chased out of America. Although, I don’t live in America so maybe I actually was…