Social Question

bookish1's avatar

Will you share a particularly memorable interaction you've had with a complete stranger?

Asked by bookish1 (13052 points ) January 28th, 2013

When was it and what were the circumstances? Did the stranger help you, or did you help them? Did you connect over a very rare shared interest? What about this interaction makes it so memorable?

One of my most memorable interactions happened when I was a junior in high school. My girlfriend of 2 years had just broken up with me, and I was torn up out of my mind. I went for a walk around my neighborhood, and ended up standing on an empty lot, chain smoking and crying. A neighbor that I had never met before asked me what was wrong. He was a Vietnam vet and he was so kind to a 16 year old kid. He talked to me for about an hour, telling me that he understood my heart was broken right now, it was the first of many times that would happen, and I would recover. He made sure that I was OK before he sent me on my way. I never saw him again, but I’ll never forget how this stranger helped me out so much just by being present for me.

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21 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I was dancing tango at La Nacional and met a stranger who did not speak English much but we were very attracted to one another. I remember he gave me his number and I called later that week to set up a total one night stand. He was babysitting this ridiculous upscale apartment in the city and was in the U.S. for a couple of days really…I went over there wearing one of those dresses and we had sex nonstop for 10 hours. I didn’t even care that he was probably recording us. We had pizza after, I never saw him again. Later, I found out he was a lead singer of a famous band in Peru. Good times.

TheobromosHumper's avatar

She was at a meeting, and I could feel the vibrations before we even talked. I felt like I totally knew her even though I’d never met her, and it was true. Everything was the same. Our experiences. It was totally freaky. But she had a boyfriend, so we kissed a little and then I took her home and never saw her again. Well, it hasn’t been that long, but she never got in touch. Second thoughts, I’m sure. But I haven’t stopped thinking about her.

KNOWITALL's avatar

My mom helps run an office that supports the mentally ill, and strangers aren’t really welcome to sit in on groups unless it’s for college courses or something like that.

So one day I went and sat in groups with everyone’s approval, and I heard some very interesting stories, but this one guy caught my full attention. He was a very handsome older man that had such severe anger issues that his own family had pretty mush disowned him.

This man touched my heart, and I stayed and talked to him afterwards. He reminded me so much of me before, angry, explosive, impatient. He was also incredibly smart and found most people to be a waste of time, which I have to admit, at times I’ve agreed.

Anyway, we talked a few times over the years and he was pleased to know that I checked on him and actually liked him for who and what he was. It made me feel good and him, too, just to be cared for by another human being. Last year I heard he died and my mom was afraid to tell me because he touched me so deeply, but I remain grateful that I was allowed to touch his life briefly and significantly, and vice versa.

wundayatta's avatar

I was 22, and looking for a place to stay in NYC. I had precious little money, so I wanted to save it for rent, not hotel bills. I spent the first night in the YMCA on 34th St, and after getting propositioned by a gay man and being unable to sleep due to noise and heat, I proceeded to call a series of strangers to ask if they would put me up.

One had attended the same college I had. Didn’t know me other than that. Maybe a friend of a friend. Not sure. But she took me in and gave me floor space for two nights. Her cats made me sneeze like crazy, but I was terribly grateful.

Then there were the friends of my grandmother. I’d never even heard of them before, but I had their names. Must have been good friends, because they put me up for a week while I found a place. They lived in Brooklyn Heights in a pretty fancy place. He smoked cigars, which was hard to bear, but not as hard as being on the streets.

It amazes me how giving people are. How much they are willing to help out, even perfect strangers. Or they will use any excuse at all to seem less like strangers. Oh, you second cousin once removed is my great aunt? Sure, Spend the night. Stay as long as you want. We’ll throw a party.

Of course, I can’t remember their names any more. I’m sure my Brooklyn benefactors are long dead, now. But wherever you all are, I still think of you and I am still grateful, and I still sing your praises to as much of the world as will read these words. Thank you.

Unbroken's avatar

What beautiful stories.

The interaction that immediately pops into my head was completely nonverbal.

I was walking into the library elated or euphoric I can’t remember why. Deep in my thoughts. I gradually became Aware I was beaming at a total stranger headed straight for them and every intention of hugging him.

He seemed very receptive of this idea. But coming to this realization shook me because while I am generally friendly I trend toward introvertness. Moreover hugging even among friends is limited and can be uncomfortable.

My face registered or broad casted my change I saw it reflected in his and gave him a quick nod and veered off to collect myself. Both happy and confused that I was open to other people in positive way and wishing I could have committed to seeing the hug through. Just to see what would happen.

Pachy's avatar

Yesterday morning I went to the post office to see if an overnight letter I had mailed the day before had arrived – I had been unable to track on the USPS site. When my turn came I stepped up to one of the two clerks, a woman, and flashed my biggest smile. She returned in in kind and gave me a very pleasant “Good morning.” I gave her the receipt and explained my issue. She was wonderful. She came out into the lobby and walked me over to the DIY machine, showed me how to track mail with it to avoid long teller lines, and then made sure I entered the correct number off the receipt. That was the problem. I hadn’t entered the letters in front of the number. I thanked her warmly for teaching me something new, and impulsively gave her a little hug, which she returned. We wished each other a happy day and I left smiling. I felt good about that encounter all day.

Pachy's avatar

I once had an accidental encounter with a man in Harlem who turned out to be the watchman in my apartment building. I hadn’t recognized him without his uniform and beret. It’s really a longer tale than I can go into here (I wrote a short story about it years ago), but I’ll tell you this much: he invited me and my friend to his tenement apartment nearby for tea, got his lovely wife to play classical piano for us, and then walked us back to the nearest subway entrance to be sure we got on safely. It was an amazing experience on several levels!

burntbonez's avatar

One I thought I’d try a job doing political work—organizing and fundraising door to door. On the day I was trained, my trainer gave his rap, and the person invited us in. He ended up giving us not only a contribution, but several records. He turned out to be some kind of reviewer or distributor or something, and he had these review copies of several current bands, including XTC, the lp that included Making Plans for Nigel (the tune starts 20 seconds in).

My trainer gave me the XTC album to take home with me. I actually tried to canvass the next two days, but wasn’t any good at it, so I never saw my trainer or the person who gave us the records again. But I still have the record and because of it, I am much less ignorant about the music of that era than I otherwise would be. It was a great party tune. I remember dancing to it many times.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I’ve talked about it a couple times on Fluther before but a couple years ago on New Years Eve my fiance and I stopped someone from committing suicide by jumping in front of a train. We ended up spending the rest of the night with him talking to him and eventually got him home. I never ended up hearing from him again after that night, I occasionally think about him and wonder how he’s doing.

KNOWITALL's avatar

My mom won tickets for me to see Michael Jackson (my love at age 12 you know) in Dallas, Texas. We were poor and had a crappy little car, but she packed us a cooler, and we went anyway only to find no rooms available due to the concert.

So mom and I hung out at McDonalds and a few Mexican fellows started a conversation, probably because we were still there, and ended up inviting us to spend the night at their house. Mom was nervous but because we are firm believers in the innate goodness of people, we followed them, their wife and child came out, and we did end up staying and watching the first Rambo movie and having a great time.

CWOTUS's avatar

Living most of my life in New England, I have dug many a stranger out of the odd snowbank that they’ve skidded into and become stuck in, since they don’t have a shovel with them, and pushed a few cars that are stuck in snow or ice on the road. I’ve also pushed some stalled cars out of heavy traffic and into safer places to wait for help. I can easily recall the last two people I’ve helped in this way.

However, over ten years ago I was driving to work in Michigan when I ran over a deep pothole in the road and blew out the sidewall of one of my car’s tires. It was in the pre-dawn on a wet, slushy and icy winter day, and I was dressed nicely for office work; I purely didn’t want to get wet, cold and dirty changing my tire. But I started the process, and as I did, the owner of the house in front of which I had stopped came outside and took over the whole process, even though I was perfectly capable and knowledgeable. He wouldn’t even accept money from me for being so kind. I was sort of overwhelmed, which is one of the reasons I keep looking for ways and places to pay that forward.

JLeslie's avatar

So many. I have written them at legnth on other Q, I will just do a brief mention here.

When my car wouldn’t start after I had just been to a very upsetting doctors appointment a man tried to jump my battery, and then when it would not start, undid the battery, drove me to Sears, I bought one, and he put it in my car. Started right up.

When I was about 6 or 7 years old the men who left their tennis game and drove me home when I was crying as I walked home having missed my school bus. I was afraid the bad person would get me on the path in the woods we took to cut through the shortcut. (There was a serial rapist during that time).

The woman who comforted me when I was crying in the emergency room waiting room about what the doctors were probably going to have to do to me. I was in my late 20’s. By the way, I did guess correctly about what needed to be done.

A doctor who gave me some information that wound up being very helpful. He was shopping in the store I worked at. I had never seen him before, never did again.

Three times in my life people gave me a quarter to make a phone call when they could not make change for a dollar.

The man who stopped when my car broke down on the side of the highway on a cold winter’s night and called my parents so they could come get me. This was when car phones first came out.

One story for my grandma. When she broke her hip and was in the middle of the street (this was in NYC) two women helped her into the corner store and waited with her until the ambulance came.

deni's avatar

Lol. Everyones stories are deep and helpful and emotional, I was going to say that right before Christmas this year I was in the grocery store picking up a few things for the restaurant I work at. As I was sorting through portobella mushrooms I was whistling Christmas tunes LOUDLY (I have a great whistle and have always known this)....I walked over to grab a bag to put the portobellas in and this guy said “MY GOD! WHAT A GREAT WHISTLE YOU HAVE! I THOUGHT I WAS LISTENING TO THE RADIO!” I don’t know why it made my day to the extent that it did, but regardless it did.

thorninmud's avatar

Many years ago, I was working for a couple of weeks as a hired chocolate gun at a fancy Philadelphia restaurant, helping them get out a big chocolate order. One Saturday, the pastry chef told me that a guy would be coming in to help. This guy was really interested in chocolate, so he came in every now and then to hang out in the chocolate kitchen.

He was a French guy, about my age, and we started talking while we worked. He had come to the States, married an American, and ended up staying (I had gone to France, married a Frenchie, and ended up staying). His wife was a librarian (so is mine). His actual job was working as a sculptor at Boehm Porcelain; they specialize in hyper-realistic bird sculptures. When I was a kid, I was really into drawing birds, and I had dreamed of someday working at Boehm. Meanwhile, he had always dreamed of working as a chocolatier.

We only spent 3 hours or so together, but we both had the uncanny sense of having lived mirror reflections of each others’ life.

flutherother's avatar

There have been many but one trivial incident that stuck in my mind was when I was buying a tie as a student. I chose a pink one and took it to the cash desk. The Chinese girl at the till gave me a good look and asked if the tie was for me. I said it was and she took me back to the tie rack and spent a bit of time choosing a nicer one for me. I have little clothes sense today and I had none as student and I appreciated her act very much. Maybe I should have asked for her number.

zensky's avatar

Well, I married one.

YARNLADY's avatar

It started when I was a little girl, and hasn’t really let up since. Many times a year, someone does something kind for me. When I was growing up, we were very poor and couldn’t afford to put money into the electric horse that was outside the grocery store. I would sit on the horse and pretend I was Dale Evans, and people would come by and put money in for me. I usually got to ride the whole time my mom was in shopping. (In those days, moms could shop while their daughters stayed outside alone).

Jeruba's avatar

I wrote about a few here.

The Salisbury experience is memorable not only because it was part—and an unexpected part—of a memorable trip that I took alone but because the man rescued me from the consequences of my own improvidence. It seems to me that many kindnesses are just of that sort (in fact, so was the one at the cafeteria). I don’t believe it would have done me more good to be made to suffer the consequences of my folly. This is the merciful side of justice: I was spared a painful, frustrating, or humiliating experience and still learned a lesson.

deni's avatar

@zensky Didn’t everybody?

zensky's avatar

Indeed. And it was the most memorable moment.

chyna's avatar

I’ve told this on here before, but it sticks in my mind and brings tears to my eyes when I think of it:
I had taken my mom to the grocery store and she had to use one of those wheel chairs that have the buggy over her legs. We had finished shopping and were just in the parking lot heading to my car when a burst of rain caught us. I was torn with going back in or heading on to the car. Mom said to “go for it” so I ran to the car with her and started tossing grocery bags in the car as fast as I could without looking at her. When I was done, I turned to help her out of the wheel chair and there stood a man holding an umbrella over my mom, while he was getting soaked. She was grinning ear to ear.

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