The Kindness of Strangers.

strangers

“Hey, how was the movie?”

I’d just stepped into the elevator and there was a woman already in there, slightly shorter than me with streaked hair and glasses with thick black plastic frames. There was something vaguely familiar about her but I work in a building where a lot of businesses and people come and go. And I’m sorry to say I don’t make a note of who’s coming and going unless I actually work with them.

So my brain was whirring with activity. Movie? What movie? There were a million little me’s running around pulling papers from filing cabinets screaming, “Everybody, boss needs information STAT!” Except over in one corner a group was arguing that I really should upgrade to a paperless system and another group was arguing that there’s no way my brain could be that organized and this was all an elaborate metaphor anyway. Oh yeah, I’d been to see a movie the previous Saturday.

“It was great,” I said, adding that it was at the Belcourt Theater.

“No,” she said, “about a month ago. When I saw you at the mall.”

More rushing around pulling files, except now the group that had been arguing for digitizing everything picked up a snack machine and threw it through a window. And that’s when I remembered where I’d seen this woman before. Or at least the last non-work place where I’d seen her. About a month earlier at the mall. And I didn’t remember her so much as the intense sense of awkwardness I’d felt.

At the time I still didn’t have a driver’s license. I didn’t get one until I was thirty-seven but that’s another long and complicated story. If I wanted to go see a movie my options were to hitch a ride with someone else or take the bus. Mostly I took the bus, but this meant a lot of planning. Most of the time it meant a trip all the way to the downtown bus depot for at least one transfer, all of which could take up to an hour. Because it was usually Saturday, a day when bus service is cut in half, I’d have to set out early and I’d arrive early for the movie, so I’d wander the mall or the various nearby stores. Going to see a movie would involve up to four hours of either riding or standing around waiting. It was while I was waiting that I ran into this woman who, for some reason, recognized me from the building where we both worked–on different floors and for completely different places.

“Hey, how’s it going?” she’d said. And while there was a large group in my brain that wanted me to say, “Who the hell are you?” but they were shouted down by the group that instead made me say, “Great! How are you?” I’m still half-convinced she didn’t really recognize me. A lot of people tell me I look like someone they know and we just happened to work in the same building because everybody in Nashville either has or will work in my building. But we still chatted politely although I was overwhelmed by an awkward feeling. I was embarrassed that I was dependent on riding the bus to get where I wanted to go. It hit me that riding the bus limited where I could go, what I could do. It made me dependent on someone else’s schedule.

I didn’t–and still don’t–look down on anyone who rides the bus. I still ride the bus regularly, although now it’s more a matter of choice than necessity. At that time though a lot of those me’s turned out to be right. An upgrade was needed.

Also I’m sure some of them escaped and that’s why strangers think they’ve met me before.

 

8 Comments

  1. Gilly Maddison

    Love the metaphor – very apt in such a situation. It must be the little feet stomping around the filing cabinets in our heads that make our brains hurt so much when we seem to have no idea what the person is talking about. How I HATE those situations. I always think, this is it, proof that I have Alzheimer’s. Scary. Love the Kinks song – had never heard it before. (At least, I THINK I haven’t – but who knows!)

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It can be quite painful when those little feet get to stomping. And that Kinks song is one of their lesser known works, although it’s from “Lola”–one of their best known albums. Odd how that works out.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    Hey, how was “A Streetcar Named Desire?” I’m sure I saw you there. And thanks for the Kinks song.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It must have been one of my clones that you saw at “A Streetcar Named Desire”–at the time I was seeing “Night Of The Iguana”. Although one thing all my iterations share in common is a willingness to oblige with a Kinks song.

      Reply
  3. halfa1000miles

    When I got married 5 years ago, someone I am Facebook friends with (but don’t know — she just graduated with me) invited herself. She knew so many details about my life, my friends, my neighbors. SHE DROVE 500 MILES ONE WAY TO COME TO MY RECEPTION. And I don’t remember her. To this day. I don’t remember ever talking to her before my reception. How weird is that? (we have stayed in touch) My file got so lost somehow.

    I love this story. What else COULD you say?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s fantastic. I love your story too. I love it that an almost stranger was so dedicated to seeing you get married, even if the only reason she came is she heard there’d be an open bar. Pardon me while I smack my inner cynic for even thinking such a thing.
      I will say that one of the nice things about Facebook is some people I barely remember or didn’t care for all that much back in the day have contacted me through it and have turned out to be pretty groovy people. Chances are they always were and I was too much of a schmuck to recognize it at the time.

      Reply
  4. Sakura Beauty

    I’m sure I saw you there. thanks for the Kinks song.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Yeah, I really get around. Wait, that’s The Beach Boys. Never mind.

      Reply

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