Do or Don’t: Talking to Strangers

The other night, I met my friend Emily for margaritas, and she told me this freaky story…

A few weekends ago, she was visiting Chicago with some girlfriends, and on a subway ride into the city, a seemingly normal-looking man sat next to her and struck up a seemingly harmless conversation. He was friendly and gregarious, and as they talked about this and that, the topic of music came up. In passing, Emily mentioned a concert she was going to in Nashville the following week, and then they arrived at her stop. She got off with her friends, and the man amicably waved goodbye. It was an overall pleasant and kind of forgettable conversation, so Emily thought nothing of it until…

The following week, at the concert, when Emily turned to her left and the man was right there. She said he still acted the same — friendly, chatty, engaging — except now it was under a whole new light, and it was suddenly all VERY. CREEPY. She and her friends moved away from the man, and obviously, she didn’t give him any of her info. “Lesson learned,” she said to me as I tried rubbing the goosebumps off my arms.

I’ve always been wary of talking to strangers, but recently I’ve started to relax a little, and especially on the Cape, it all seems very harmless and neighborly. There have even been studies done showing that talking to strangers can actually brighten your day, and if there’s a catalyst for conversation — like train delays — then I imagine you can keep the topic fairly neutral. Of course, not everyone is a creepy serial stalker…but this story still freaks me out. I pressed Emily for details, and the biggest red flag (as I see it) was his age: mid-fifties. (Sorry, Dad!)

Do you talk to strangers? Do you love it or avoid it entirely? Have you ever had anything freaky happen? Please share! I’d love to know.

See all “Do or Don’ts” here, plus: What Do You Do When You See A Stranger Crying and Inside a New York City Dog Park

4 thoughts on “Do or Don’t: Talking to Strangers

  1. When I was younger (“your age”), a guy started chatting with me while I was on a lunch break in the local park. Something bothered me about him, but out of a misplaced sense of guilt I was friendly. Turns out he was seriously mentally ill and he stalked me for months after, even attacking me on a crowded train. Last time I saw him before moving to another city, he was screaming obscenities and death threats at me on the street. Lessons learned: 1. Trust your instincts, and 2. Never be afraid to not be “nice”.

  2. Umm, SO CREEPY. I really try not to give total strangers I probably will never see again any identifying personal info (last name or where I live, things like that). Sometimes I just outright lie.

  3. I think a lot can be said for trusting your gut, too. No doubt most people are harmless…but after reading this I will certainly be a little more aware of what I share!

  4. On morning runs I say hi to everyone, and I love it! Some respond, some don’t (some have headphones in their ears and likely don’t even hear me). I’m a fairly introverted person but still crave social interaction so for me, its the perfect kick start to my day. Some people really respond too, and I like to think I’ve brightened their day.

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