Words with strangers

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By: Aaron Sorenson

Everyone is a stranger. With the exception of the immediate families into which we’re born, we all enter this world alone—a single person beginning the long journey of life. For whatever reason, we’re naturally social creatures who choose to build connections and relationships with all the other strangers along the way.
As children, strangers were to be feared. Now we know that a stranger’s  a potential friend, potentially decent and at least capable of a civil conversation. All best friends were strangers at one time—strangers who we chose to become closer with, because there’s something that clicked.
Nonetheless, they’re  strangers at one point in time. In that case, a stranger’s just as decent as a friend. Sometimes, a stranger can be someone to confide in more so than a friend. Because your relationship with a stranger’s usually only temporary, their judgment of your character is less scrutinizing than that of a long-term friend.
I enjoy making temporary friends with a stranger. A temporary friend can be made just about anywhere. Such is the case with group members from class or a highway buddy; that driver on the highway who has traveled near you for a long stretch, if not for most of your road trip.
Currently, my favorite place to make temporary friends is with mobile apps like “Words with Friends” and “Hanging with Friends,” where you can play games with random opponents from anywhere in the world and hold conversations with them in a chat box.
However, there are some places where it’s not possible to turn strangers into friends. For instance, there’s no friend to be made in an elevator. The elevator is too much of an awkward and uncomfortable place, and because of that, I choose to take the stairs.
The same goes for lobbies in a dentist or doctor’s office—here, strangers are forced to sit around each other with very limited opportunities to escape conversations once they have run their course or avoid them all together (which I think is why it is rare for conversations to start in these settings in the first place). So the lobby becomes a quiet place; so quiet that you can almost hear everybody thinking all at once.
The city is the stranger’s paradise—my paradise—anonymity at its finest. I prefer anonymity because being a stranger gives you a sense of freedom. A stranger is a positive thing indeed.
As a stranger you don’t organize your time according to other’s schedules, you don’t feel the ball-and-chain-effects that come with all relationships, and it’s less likely that you’ll be interrupted while carrying on your daily routine. It’s easy living when you’re just another face in the crowd.
For reasons which I cannot completely understand —perhaps with the great impact of celebrities and television on our lives—many people would rather stand out from the crowd and be known by the masses than to lead the life of an everyday stranger; but with fame comes sacrifice.
The previously mentioned idea of “easy living” evaporates and is replaced with a constant pressure to live up to your public character along with an obsessive need to remain relevant in the public eye. This is not for me.
The way I see it, stranger or not, we can all mostly be served and treated equally in public, we can all go about our business separately as if to feel some level of individuality, and, for the most part, we’ll all look out for each other. In this world of strangers, there’s always a strong feeling of family if you pay attention to it.

Email:amsorenson@radford.edu