Saturday, 3 December 2011

Conversation between strangers

Would you and do you speak to complete strangers? I only ask because, whilst at work in the shop yesterday, something strange happened.

I could see him approaching the till from the corner of my eye. I can't remember what I was doing, if anything (the shop is really quiet in the morning). He stood near the counter and stared at me. At this point, I couldn't tell what he was doing so I reached out my hand so he'd give me the bottle of orange juice he was clutching.

"Wait a minute." he said, and continued staring. I was a bit freaked out at this point. We can sometimes get weird people come in the shop, and the only barrier I have is the counter.

He then began to attempt to pronounce my name from my name badge in his strong African accent. It then became clear to me that he was staring at my name badge all this time. All the while, my hand was still outstretched.

"You are looking very nice today," he said. I blushed and looked down. I don't know how to take a compliment at the best of times, so I didn't say anything.

He looked at his friend who was stood a few yards away from the counter:

"She doesn't want to talk to me, she just wants my money! I tried to tell her that she's lookin nice but she just want my money!" He joked.

I smiled awkwardly and joked: "Just give me the money and nobody gets hurt!" I gave him his 1p change and he asked if I was from Kenya (?!), and what I was studying. He then laughed and left. I couldn't help but place this experience at the top of my "weirdest encounters in the shop" list- which is, of course, a mental list.

But it got me thinking. I was discussing this with my fellow editors at PULP on Wednesday, two of whom are originally from London and said that if a stranger started talking to you on a bus in the South, you'd label them as weird, but here, in the North, it is quite common for a stranger to just spark up a conversation, especially on public transport.

Perhaps we are too quick to label such people as "weird", but since we lead such busy lives, it's pretty rare that a customer will stop for a chat, unless it's about football tickets, in which case I shout the word "Mike!" (the name of my boss). They usually just want to pay for their stuff, get some change and go. I sometimes do talk to strangers, usually shop assisstants, and I'd normally be complimenting their jewellery or something.

Do you talk to strangers?

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