I think the world is more suspicious now. We have neighbors living next to strangers, not neighbors. People are still friendly to one another – they nod or give a wave if they pass by a neighbor – but neighbors do not really know each other. People sit in a bar or anywhere public and if someone taps on their shoulders or asks a question or tries to start conversation, people become irritated. They become suspicious. Why are you asking me that? Who are you? What do you want with me?
People are shying more away from each other, putting up boundaries. Everyone seems to walk around with these circles and borders nowadays. We can’t blame people. Today’s circumstances have made the attitudes of alertness and suspiciousness a safer attitude for people to adopt. We are taught as kids to never trust strangers, and as adults, we now walk around with that mentality stronger than ever.
And how could we not? The media is plagued with the most recent victims of shootings, murders, city attacks, and more.
I’m not an exception to this attitude. But then there are moments where circumstances bring strangers together, and I find myself relearning the beauty of communication. The joys of hearing another’s story and learning a little bit of what defines the person. The following story I write is just to remind myself and others what a gift it is to discover a new person.
A couple weeks ago I was at the airport after a weekend of visiting one of my best friends in NYC. Unfortunately instead of waiting at my terminal, I was in a long line of angry customers. It was just announced that our morning flight had been cancelled, and there was no other flights out today. People were on their phones, exchanging hard words with the people at the counters, or huffing and staring angrily into the distance.
As I stood there texting my family the news, my impatience grew inside of me. I had been traveling non-stop without breaks ever since my STEP 1 board exam ended, and all I wanted to do was go home and sit on the couch and not move. As the minutes ticked by and the line failed to move, my irritation grew rapidly.
Managing to keep my frustration abate, I was able to be rerouted to a different city where I would be set up with a hotel to rest before taking the next flight out to my last destination. During that time, I also met a mother and her son. I only had time to inform her of what was going on before leaving the line and heading downstairs to wait until my night time flight.
I spent the rest of the day reading before going through security to wait at the terminal for my 10PM flight. As I sat in my chair exhausted, the same mom and son pair sat near me. Staring at them, I decided on a whim to start conversation with her, wondering if she remembered me from this morning. To my surprise, she did and for the next few hours, I had some travel companions. As the hour near our flight (already delayed) drew near, another family joined our conversation, and we spent the next 30 minutes lamenting about our horror flight stories as the family’s two pretty daughters jumped up and down near me asking me if their outfits are pretty.
Soon I was on my flight, and as the plane took off into the sky, I passed out. Landing and waiting for the hotel shuttle, I realized there was a small group of stragglers all from NYC in the same position as me. We all came from different backgrounds and were in NYC for different reasons. The mother and son were visiting family, one girl was there for her best friend’s wedding, and another group was there for a fun break from school. We all laughed and lamented over our situation as we sat on our luggage in the light drizzle falling from the sky. Despite not really knowing each other, we agreed to make sure we were all awake by 6AM to catch the hotel shuttle back to the airport.
We were all squashed in the van, and at this point it was 1AM and a thirty minute drive to the hotel awaited us. Despite my utter exhaustion, I found myself surprisingly without irritation. I was in good company. I knew that most likely I would never see these people again, but for that one night, we were each other’s familiar faces.