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Treating Strangers like Friends

When you travel with someone for a year or two, you pick up their habits. One of Todd's habits that I most admire, and am thankful to have picked, up is the practice of treating strangers like friends. When he goes to a restaurant and the waiter asks him how he is, he tells him what's going on in his life and returns the question in such a way that it obligates a genuine response. When we leave a restaurant, everyone we know gets a hug.

I get nostalgic, mostly for times I wasn't alive for. Like the middle ages. And, more relevantly, like the days before computers and cell phones, when neighbors actually recognized each other, and maybe even talked to each other. Shopkeepers were called shopkeepers, and they knew their customers by name. Their conversations extended beyond a scripted sales pitch for a rip-off extended warranty. I miss these times because I've seen them in movies and read about them in books, not because I've really experienced them.

Simple habits can be profound. One such habit that is more important than ever is to treat strangers like friends. Facebook, cell phones, and other "social" technologies have done to friendship what laminate flooring did for hardwood floors. It made things easier and more accessible, but did so at the cost of substance. In fact, this is happening in pretty much every area of life, something I've realized more fully now that I'm trying to find meat with substance; it's almost impossible. So I try to treat everyone as though they're a real person, just in case they actually are. Unfortunately I can't answer all my email anymore, but when I do I try to write to the person as if they're my friend, rather than use stock replies (which I could do, since a lot of the things people write about are similar). Once in a while I even fill someone in on secret future plans or send them a draft of something. When interacting with random people in everyday life, I make an effort to actually listen to them and to talk about things that they may not have talked about with every person they've interacted with that day.

My Happy Place

On Stuff in a Notebook

This is going to sound silly, but my happy place is in the car. I like to be the passenger, and I like loud music blaring. I like the windows rolled down, the sunroof open, I like the sun or the stars above my head. I don't mind sticking my head out the window like a dog. I like my best friend to drive. Now why in the world is this my happy place?

I'm not quite sure myself. I've never minded road trips. I think perhaps because being in the car involves going somewhere, and going somewhere means either going on an adventure or coming home from one. Maybe it's not. Maybe it's the presence of people I love. Maybe I just find the forward motion relaxing, like a little kid who falls asleep on the way home. In any case, it's the simple things in life that make me happy. I'm really grateful for that.

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