Last week, a friend pointed out to me that I had only written about women strangers in my last few posts. I am an equal opportunity learner and since instituting my ‘pay attention to the people around me’ policy, I’ve been able to learn lessons and acquire nuggets of wisdom from male and female strangers.
I met this man at a local coffee shop. One of the best things about coffee shops, aside from the coffee, is the chance to people watch. People watching in a coffee shop takes more finesse than people watching in a mall or a park. You don’t want to be that weirdo that stares, especially in a small shop, just like the one I was in. While I was there for an hour, I watched at least six people hustle in for coffee and hustle back out just as fast, ladies from a knitting group begin to knit one/purl two, a business meeting about vitamin sales, and two friends embrace warmly before sitting down to catch up.
This man, we’ll call him Sal, sat by himself, with a newspaper and a hot tea. As people passed or sat next to him, he would greet each person and offer a general statement or pose a question. They didn’t really pay him any mind. Eventually, a woman with a toddler sat down at a table across from him. The mother and daughter shared a cookie. The little girl, who was adorable, smiled and waved at Sal. This gesture made the man’s face come alive. He waved back enthusiastically and told the little girl that she was as ‘pretty as a picture’. The little girl talked at him as only toddlers can and he nodded to her in agreement. The mother made some small talk too. Once they finished their cookie, they wave goodbye to Sal, and left the coffee shop. He went back to reading and trying to befriend newcomers.
I walked by Sal to get to the trash can and he made eye contact with me. Instead of looking away, which is what I would have done pre-blog, I walked over to him.
“Reading anything good?” I asked him.
“Nope, nothing good in here today. But you know, I was reading a story yesterday in the paper about…”
Sal and I talked for ten minutes about the news, the coffee smell, his grandchildren in California, his wife who passed away three years ago, the weather, and his grandchildren in California again. His loneliness was unmistakable.
Who knows what Sal thought about me? Maybe he was counting down the seconds until I finally stopped talking so he could get back to his newspaper. I doubt it, though. If I have the time to talk to a ‘Sal’ in the future, I will. You should too.