It's rare to communicate with strangers, no matter what city or country you live in. Occasionally, a careless smile or a "pardon" can invite unwelcome attention. I tend to keep to myself, just to be safe.
Strike days, like those last week, offer a change to the routine. When you're packed like sardines in a carriage (one train in seven? peak hour? short train instead of a long train? ouch!), passengers will laugh at the situation with people they wouldn't normally talk to.
Animals change the normal anti-social behaviour too (as I'm sure she can attest to). We were coming home from KNOTs a couple of weeks ago, and a woman and her French Bulldog puppy were sitting in the seats across the aisle. We kept looking over at the dog (how could we not? he was so cute!), and eventually exchanged shy smiles with the lady, who finally grinned at us and unleashed her dog - who immediately sprinted over to us, clambered onto the seats and lavished us with puppy attention. She got off the train, and I spent the next 20 minutes making small talk with this stranger and having my neck licked by a friendly puppy. I learned where she bought her bag (super cute purple one from Kipling), and she learned about KNOTs.
It gave me a lot to think about - how such a small thing can break down the barriers of communication between strangers. Almost as if the barriers were waiting to be broken down.
Last week, I went into my local Columbus Café, to pick up a coffee to take to work. I go there once every week or two, and have been doing so for the last two years, so the staff in there know me on sight, although we never say anything beyond, "would you like a muffin?".
I asked for "the usual", and the barista turned around to make my coffee. I noticed her shirt was inside out.
The internal struggle between me and my shy side went on for a minute as she heated the milk - is it really inside out? are those seams or a fashion statement? is she deliberately wearing it inside out? is it some new fashion that i don't know about? should I say something? is it my place to say anything at all?
In the end, I figured that she would be more embarrassed than I, and that I would end up feeling guilty all day if I didn't say anything.
When she turned around to hand me my coffee, I leaned over and whispered, "your shirt is inside out".
She looked down, blushed and laughed, "oh my, thankyou."
She rang up my coffee and continued talking, "I live in a studio apartment with my husband, and because I have to leave very early in the morning, while my husband is still sleeping, I get dressed in the dark! I must have just put it on backwards."
I smiled at her, "I do the same sorts of things."
She grinned at me, "Thankyou..."
Perhaps those barriers really are just waiting to be broken down.