Everyday, we have the possibility of crossing hundreds of strangers - at the supermarket, passing people on the highway, the hallways of work, a movie theater, a mall, you name it. But it's in those spaces that have close proximity where we have the opportunity to turn a stranger into something more. To make contact with one of the 7 billion people whom we would not have otherwise met. I think the best opportunity of meeting someone from all walks of life is in the airport. With so many flights and connections and airplanes going to different, and even the same, destinations, there are tons of combinations that the people who are traveling can take.
I was flying home after New Year's and I had a connection in Charlotte. As I got to my gate, I learned that my flight was delayed. I had nothing to do once I got home, so I wasn't all that worried about it. I decided to roam around the gift shops and enjoy the extra time. Closer to the non-delayed boarding time, I headed back to my gate and sat down to read my book. Annoyingly loud headphones were playing so I got up and moved to a quieter area.
There was a guy on a crutch walking to talk to the flight attendants. I'm sure it had something to do with his mobility and maybe being able to board first or last on the plane. When he turned around and began walking towards me (his seat was behind where I was standing) I just felt the urge to talk to this stranger. I simply asked "Are you ok?" as he painfully limped by and he said "No, but I'll be ok." I asked him what had happened and he told me he twisted his ankle. I told him if he needed any help to just ask, because I could imagine how I would feel traveling on a plane by myself with a cast. We both smirked and he went to his seat and I went back to my book.
The plane that was delaying us finally arrived and the passengers started coming off. It would be a couple of minutes for the staff to clean up after the last passenger was on, and start boarding us. I decided I would sit, and there was an empty chair near to Mr. Limping. I don't know why I kept talking to him, or him to me. I'm sure we can guess why, but truthfully, what connects two strangers? How do you know that you won't be rejected? I guess you just take a big leap of faith. So I sat down, hoping he was in a talkative mood, and if not, I still had my book in my hands. We ended up chatting for a good 20 minutes while we waited to board. Then, as "luck" would have it, our seats were 1 row away from each other on the plane. When we got to our arrival city we walked toward baggage claim together and engaged in another 20 minutes of conversation. It was really a great moment of connecting with a complete stranger.
And the inevitable end always happens. We both had our bags, and it was time to go. And as it goes with strangers, you part ways, not necessarily exchanging information. Sometimes it's not about getting a number or an email (in hindsight that would have been nice), but sometimes it's simply about enjoying another human beings company just because. Just because we were in the airport together, or just because you happen to catch the same elevator, or just because you were put in the same space together.
Remember that there are 7 billion people in the world, but we all have similar stories, similar backgrounds, and when put in proximity of eachother, it's amazing how small a world this can actually be. And that my friends, is Stranger than any Fiction I could have made up, and I love it that way!