What are we so scared about?
This week was interestingly surrounded by this question in many ways. It first hit me on a bus ride. Seats facing each other in the bus, if you happen to be facing someone and have nothing specific to distract yourself or look busy with, then follows an interminable game of hide and seek, during which both of you just wish you could hide your sight from one another or that you could melt through the bench. Your eyes rolling to the right, his eyes rolling to the left, a quick common glance at the window that both of you will attenuate by staring at your Oh so interesting shoes, and it starts again; furtive look, an infructuous attempts at smiling that resolves itself in nothing because you are too shy and affraid of unforeseen consequences.
What if yours eyes met and you ended up staring at a stranger? What if you’d smile and start chatting? You will never know, because your mouth corners won’t lift and you’ll just keep wondering: ‘’If he’d smile I would definitely smile back’’, ‘’He’s so cute, perhaps he would be the man of my life!’’, ”Okay this is awkward, and why are we avoiding each other’s sight so badly?’’ ‘’It wouldn’t even qualify as a social experiment on Youtube, common… It’s not that hard to smile! Is it?’’….
You’ll keep being scared of facing someone else’s green eye on a bus ride.
You’ll keep being scared of smiling to someone that seems nice.
You’ll keep standing alone with your thought at the bus stop, or in the line before ordering food.
And all the others will do the same, looking down at their phone, scrolling down a Facebook feed that hasn’t even loaded because the data’s are slow, watching the people on the street by the window or staring at those oh so fantastic shoes. We’re all together on a bus ride and yet all alone.
But the sad part is that we’re missing out. Missing out on amazingly surprising encounters and on the chance to share moments, even the tiniest moments, with human beings that are only waiting to receive that smile! How sad is it that we are so scared of disturbing this individualistic world we live in?
But today all my questions were resolved. Truth is; we are just dumb.
As I was starving at the library, I decided to go downstairs in the ‘’not quiet’’ zone were they happen to have vending machine. YEAH FOOD! It was not the most glorious dinner but I grabbed a chocolate waffle and sat on that red bench. After dropping more crumbs on me and sweeping them away, that girl asked me in German if the other seat was free. My German is bad, but thanks to her pointing motion, I smiled back and pronounced a happy ‘’Ja’’. So she sat.
And then went by 3 minutes of eating alone, staring in random directions and so on…
Again wondering, as I was enjoying my waffle, why I was incapable of starting up conversations with strangers and how weird was is that we’d rather share silence and awkward looks, than dare to look up, smile and align few words together. Thinking that her fruits bowl looked really delicious and other random thoughts such as why I was not bringing fruits to library more often and contemplating the fact that I was eating lazy these days… You know how thoughts goes!
But then miracle!!! I dropped crumbs again, did a weird face, perhaps a meh, a smile, she smiled, she replied, fuggy moment, I engaged, ice was broken and we started talking! It went something like that:
Me-’’Yah I am clumsy and these are making a lot of crumbs, haha!’’
Her-Ja, I don’t know the word in English, hum. Sometimes I try german with an English accent but see, it doesn’t always work!’’
Me-‘’Well, I feel you! It happens to me all the time… Your fruits look so good by the way! I always forget to buy food for Sundays and I end up eating only random bread… hahah!’’
Her-‘’Yeah that’s usually me but I had extra time yesterday! …Would you like some of it?’’
Me-‘’Omg that’s sweet! Are you sure? J Haha what’s your name by the way?”
And I ended up eating the delicious fresh fruits of a complete stranger with her spoon while laughing and talking about snowboarding, travelling, language, school, work…
How funny. Isn’t it? As soon as sounds are out of strangers mouths, boundaries are gone and you can start saying the most random things. But it still is so weird that we need that good of an excuse to start talking: We are waiting for it, waiting for these crumbs to fall down and make us pull a face. Long story short, I had a great time during this library break. I laughed, had fun, and perhaps made a new friend. Maybe we’ll have other coffee breaks, or end up travelling someplace together; maybe we’ll eventually laugh about this first time we spoke or in fact, we could as well never meet again.
I can’t predict the future but I know for sure that this moment was great and I can only wonder how many great moments I could have had if I had only smiled and said hi. I don’t have the perfect recipe and haven’t found yet how to easily start talking to someone in random situations or how to gather the courage to do a properly assumed smile to a stranger: Maybe they’ll smile back, maybe they won’t, maybe you’ll have the best conversation and maybe you will only exchange two words, receive a judgmental look back or be completely ignored. But even if it is ridiculously scary it’s worth a try.
Truly, the worst thing that can happen is nothing compared to the risk of missing out on the best encounter of your life.
So stop looking down and look up, because if you’d smile at me I would gladly smile back!