General Question

Jeruba's avatar

In the course of an ordinary day, how many strangers do you see?

Asked by Jeruba (46961points) March 31st, 2009

Let’s define “stranger” as someone that you have not, to your knowledge, ever seen before (and not just someone that you don’t know personally). Someone new to your eyes.

And let’s define “see” as “having within your field of vision,” and not specifically encountering in some way. If you work in a library, it might be the number of library patrons you notice but don’t recognize (haven’t seen before) as you move around outside and inside and not just the ones who approach you.

Let’s say an ordinary or average day is the way you spend most of your days and nights, such as a typical workday and evening.

So, for instance, if you work in a coffee shop in a small town where you know everyone in town and an out-of-towner passes through an average of once a week, your answer would be “less than one.”

If you work in New York and ride the subway to work, your answer might be “several thousand” (that number is close enough).

Don’t count the shopping mall, the airport, or the stadium or convocation hall unless that’s someplace you usually go to every day.

When you give your answer, please also tell us what thoughts came up for you as you were considering this question.

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27 Answers

essieness's avatar

A lot. I work in a restaurant, so on any given night, I see a ton of people I don’t know. I was trying to think about how many tables I might have during a shift and figure up how many people I wait on individually, but then I realized that I pretty much see everyone in the restaurant every night. I am all over the place. Not counting the bar, there are 202 seats in the restaurant. If every seat fills up and turns over 3 times, that would be 606 people. On weekends they turn over more.

Amoebic's avatar

0 – days off.
50–100 – workday (retail).

I thought a lot about how my view of humanity changes when I see very few people (with my current lifestyle) as opposed to when I saw several hundreds to thousands on a daily basis (public transit to work).

I tend to feel like I’m a part of a greater thing when there are more people around. I feel that this current, constant isolation isn’t as healthy for me.

essieness's avatar

@Amoebic You sound like me. On my days off, I barely leave the house.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I live in Brooklyn, so I don’t see as many as thousands, but in an average day, it’s definitely over 100. A lot of tourists visit my neighborhood.

It’s strange to think that I’ve seen more people in a few days this week than my grandparents did in their entire lives put together.

Amoebic's avatar

@essieness I’m one of those socially sensitive types – I tend to zero in on how people behave, and I find it mentally exhausting. I need solitary time to recoup. Go go introversion! I used to wait tables myself, and the broad, fast-paced exposure needs some solitary counterbalance, imho

Lightlyseared's avatar

Lots. Also they take their clothes off for me when I ask them.

janbb's avatar

Funny that you gave the example of a library since that’s where I work. I would say I see about 100 strangers in the “information commons” (reference area) on the 3 days I work. On my days off, I tend to go to the gym for water aerobics and then my pizza place for a slice, Foodtown and back home. On those days, I might see 15–20 new faces. I tend to want to be a homebody pretty much on my days off and don’t seek out new things to do.

Allie's avatar

Probably somewhere around 200/300/400. I go to a fairly big university. I see a ton of strangers when I’m switching classes or hanging out somewhere waiting for a class to start. So yeah… the number of strangers I see daily is pretty high.

VzzBzz's avatar

About 100 new faces daily, I work in a car dealership.

Drawkward's avatar

220? I commute to class on a train, in downtown Chicago and often mill about thereafter.

casheroo's avatar

When I work- 50–100
Not working- 25

I go out with my son every day, today we went to the zoo..so I saw plenty of people I didn’t recognize. Or we go through walks through the neighborhood..I see people I don’t know all the time.

augustlan's avatar

On an average day, I might see two strangers walking down the sidewalk in front of my house, and many more driving on the road beyond that. On my ‘going out’ days, when I run my errands and visit with my kids, maybe 30 to 40 in the various stores and restaurants we go to, plus hundreds more in the cars around us. This question made me think of how separated we all are these days. All those strangers are potential friends, if we’d ever go out of our way to pay attention to them!

YARNLADY's avatar

On a typical day I see zero strangers. I stay at home, mostly inside, and I usually only see family: the two other people who live here, except on weekends when I babysit my grandson, then I see the three people who usually bring him over.

Once in awhile I see neighbors who are not known to me, passing by outside, but I live on a secluded street, so I hardly ever see strangers.

jo_with_no_space's avatar

Totally dependent on the day in question – anything from thousands down to zero.

fireside's avatar

I’d say the average nowadays is pretty low. Clients are mostly phone based conversations so there are days when the total is zero.

I don’t go out driving everyday, so this would seem to go along with the not counting those people. Same would go with the grocery or drug store. I do get out on weekends though, so this would be a tough number to try and pin down to an average.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

I definitely see hundreds to thousands. I live in NYC, and I walk or take the subway everyday. There are very, very few days when I don’t leave my apartment. I also live pretty close to some major tourist areas and some major retail places, so people flock to those areas.

Bluefreedom's avatar

On a workday, I might see between 10 and 20 stangers.

On my days off, the numbers could vary greatly because it would depend heavily on where I go.

Trustinglife's avatar

GQ Jeruba – I loved your definitions in the details section.

I usually see maybe 5–10. I work from home, and there are usually people out and about in my residential neighborhood. When I drive to some group event or activity, which is normal, I’ll lay eyes on another 40–50 people along the way.

This question inspired me to want to see more people every day – especially people I know.

wundayatta's avatar

My first thought was thousands. 3422, to be precise, on average (I count them). Then I see all these other urban people who don’t see nearly as many, and I wonder.

Of course, what do I know? Maybe I have met them all. But I don’t remember people, and even if I know them, I forget their names. Pathetic—in the memory dept.

Trustinglife's avatar

Are you sure your memory is bad? How many instances can you recall of your memory failing you? (Just kidding.)

Jeruba's avatar

For me a typical day would be a day at work and then an evening at home. I drive the freeway and work in an office of a very large company with many multistory buildings. In the course of a normal day, in the parking lot, hallways, elevators, breakrooms, campus walkways, and cafeteria I probably see 60 actual new-to-my-eyes strangers and hundreds more I just barely recognize. I’d add another 40 on the freeway and surface streets during my commute for about 100 total.

What made me think of this was just happening to cross paths this morning right near my cubicle with a guy I’d never seen before. Happens all the time. But this time I didn’t think, “He’s a stranger.” I thought, ”I’m a stranger to him.” I recalled a line in a song of Chris Smither: “I can talk to strangers if I want to. I’m a stranger too.”

And that made me think about how blurred the lines have become between stranger and not-stranger since back when my mother explained to me very clearly whom I was not to speak to or get into cars with. I won’t write an essay here, but that thought lingered with me and prompted me to pose the question.

Jeruba's avatar

I also think our widely varied answers (thank you!) form an interesting and ordinarily invisible backdrop for each of us, an aspect of “where we’re coming from” that seldom appears but that may well influence our outlook on things and on one another.

Trustinglife's avatar

Excellent point!

bea2345's avatar

On my way to work I would see hundreds of strangers. But it would be a very strange day if I went into the city and did not see a single person I knew or recognised. I am not particularly sociable but my country is small. And sometimes I have an encounter that remains in my memory even though we do not exchange names.

augustlan's avatar

I took two of my kids to a nearby small town today to visit the library there, one we had never been to before. It was a tiny, one room type of place. Everyone who came and went knew each other, and stopped to say hello to one another. It was such a different dynamic than the large libraries we usually visit. Very interesting to see all of the interaction! In that town, we were probably the only 3 strangers anyone saw all day. :)

CMaz's avatar

Including the one in the mirror?

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