Continuing with the challenge to talk to 500 new people this year. See this post for the brief description of the challenge.
- Sunday 21 March in Sydney the sustained heavy rain had strangers talking to each other, especially in the crowded supermarket.
When the Emerging Artist said to me, ‘You stand in line while I get the rest of our stuff,’ a woman with a strong southern European accent burst out laughing. We had been unwittingly blocking her path to the end of a checkout line. I let her in front of me, and a conversation followed. Was there a new Covid panic that none of us (a couple of other people joined the conversation) knew about? A young woman in a mask and a stylish tattoo on the nape of her neck searched her phone for news.
The conversation kept up, among strangers thrown together by the weather, until my load was rung up and paid for, and I headed off to the fish shop. A quarter of an hour later at the greengrocer’s, the masked young woman and I passed by each other like total strangers.
- Tuesday morning at the pool, as I finished my eight laps in the slow lane, one of the attendants was fiddling with the lane-dividing ropes. I said something banal like, ‘Tightening the ropes?’ She said, ‘You’re all swimming too fast.’ I laughed: ‘It’s a long time since anyone said that to me.’ She only had one line: ‘You’re all swimming too fast,’ she said again, and gestured vaguely to the adjacent gentle exercise area. [Incidentally this is an example of a tiny exchange that laid the basis for subsequent ones – on Friday morning, she initiated a brief chat.]
- Wednesday evening, unusually, I was in Marrickville Library at 7.15. When the lights were dimmed, I was engrossed with my computer and it took a while to realise it was a signal. Without thinking, I turned to the person next to me, who was also packing up her computer: ‘I could have kept going for another hour.’ She said, ‘Yes, you get into the zone, don’t you?’
- Wednesday, a little later, when I stopped to buy a quick meal at a Portuguese place, I decided to go for something beyond strict transactionalism. I asked the young man serving me if he was Portuguese. ‘No,’ he said, ‘are you?’ When I said I was from north Queensland, he looked as if that was surprising, and told me where he was from. I had to ask him to repeat it, but was too embarrassed to ask when I still didn’t catch it.
- Thursday morning at GymKidz with Ruby, I was sitting on the sidelines as usual while the Emerging Artist did the hard yards of encouraging and assisting. I turned to the woman sitting –suitably distanced – in the next chair and asked, ‘Are you a grandparent too?’ She smiled and gestured to indicate that she didn’t speak english. A little later her daughter joined her, and she and I laughed together admiringly at our respective young descendants’ skills.
- Thursday, later, a beautiful day at the zoo, the three of us were standing at a glass wall staring into a deep, empty pool whose surface was a couple of metres above eye level. A small boy, maybe four years old, approached us and said, ‘My nan told me to tell you that there aren’t any seals in there.’ We thanked him, and acknowledged his nan as we left.
- Friday morning at the chemists while waiting for some prescriptions, a little girl was crawling on the carpet. Her mother said something like, ‘Good dog,’ and her slightly older sister just looked mortified. I said softly to the mother, ‘What a beautiful puppy you’ve got.’ ‘Yes,’ she said, isn’t it.’ We chatted, and after a while the older girl picked the younger one up in a big hug.
- Friday evening, we checked in at a motel in Albury (this is starting to feel like a personal contact tracing exercise). The tired-looking young man at reception was wearing a colourful T-shirt featuring Kramer from Seinfeld. I said I liked it. We discussed Kramer briefly. I asked if he had a printer so we could print off our permit to enter Victoria. He said having it on the phone was fine, and anyway no one was checking now – he’d travelled to Melbourne and back a couple of days ago and forgot to get a permit: ‘I felt naughty.’
- Friday evening, a little later, a family group was walking on the opposite footpath to us. One of the boys – probably about 8 – called out a cheerful greeting to people in a passing car. As we got closer, I saw that he called out and waved to every passing car, and that there was then a discussion with the other, older boys about whether anyone had waved back. I asked if that’s what he was doing, and expressed my approval.
- Saturday afternoon, at our accommodation in Carlton, I asked the young man at reception if there was any parking nearby. He said the basement parking was theoretically full but he’d work something for us. Bearing in mind this challenge, I remembered to ask him his name when I thanked him.
Running total is now 58.