Let's talk a bit about street interactions, because one of the reasons I moved back from LA to NY was that I missed, and I mean-I genuinely missed, being able to just meet and talk to strangers. And, strange as this may sound, it took me a while to realize I that I actually never, ever did that before moving back to NY from LA. You know, eye contact, casual conversations with people at cafe's, deli's, etc. Now, I talk to strangers all the time. Those truck drivers that say hi, I say hi back. I like some girls shoes at Starbucks, I tell her. The street musician, I like what he's playing, I tell him so. We talk about it. I talk to street artists about their work, they ask me about mine.
The train has been a really interesting meeting place. I no longer look away if someone looks at me or smiles. Some of these interactions have actually gone a little further than mere casual conversation. I may have given one or two my number. Recently, I went on a date with someone I met on the L. It was a real snoozer which was funny considering that just a few days before, at 9:30am on the train, we were full on eye-banging. Now, I couldn't get out of this date fast enough (and neither could he, believe me I have no delusions).
The thing is this, I don't necessarily know if this much interaction is opening me up, or causing me to give up on people faster and causing them to give up on me faster as well. In New York, there is always someone new to meet. Does this make us less tolerant of people? Does this make us all so much more apt to flake out and drop out at the slightest annoyance?
Because, suppose you do live in some tiny town and your chances of meeting new people are so slim that you are genuinely psyched to when you do. And, what if that infrequency of meeting new people causes you to be more tolerant to their imperfections? Do you cherish connections more in general?
I want to share an interaction I had the other day, because to me it was a stunning example of this. I am walking off the train on my way home from work. I spot a boy (he really couldn't be called more than that because I suspect he was very, very young). Or maybe he spots me. I stop to look at some books nearby. By accident on purpose, of course. He comes over to talk and walks me home. I learn all about him in that short walk (but not much really). About, how he is a model and that he has a lot of free time in between gigs. This doesn't bother him, and he's from North Carolina. He's still trying to figure out what he'd like to do. Which is great, because that's what your 20's (or maybe teens) are for.
He said he'd like to get a drink sometime (so at least 21?). I said sure. I went home and got a text from him that said he would have liked to have kissed me. I thought this was sweet. To this I said, "Well, we just might" (cheeky, in my old age). Then I added, "I think you are probably a lot younger than me and I'm afraid to ask". To this he wrote "Age is like wine, it gets better with time, but at a certain point, it spoils". And just like that, it was all over.
I guess what I really think is sad, is that so much of it is so fleeting. And, its all because of the sheer overwhelming amount of so-called-opportunity. That because we don't really cherish any of these interactions in a deep way, it all amounts to very little actual opportunity. None. We are left empty, wandering, searching endlessly in an overcrowded city.
I think a lot of it is this is an expectation of something exciting-that kind of shallow type of interacting that has very little to do with making any real connections or friendships at all.
I was born and raised in New York, and the only other place I've ever really lived in was LA where I can tell you from my own experience, connections are even far more fleeting. If you've made a couple of good friends in LA, hold on tight, because there's not a lot of that going on.
I have dear friends in New York. My closest and best, those who have been with me through everything. I feel so lucky. But, I really want to become more aware of how special it is to live in a city amongst so many, many strangers. And, to cherish that more- all the interactions, as if they were each unique and special (I mean of course, lets face it, some just aren't). But, I'd like to believe and hold on to the possibility that this one stranger, could in fact become another good friend-if given a real chance.