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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.

Dragonslaying and favors


I've been telling everyone I work with to stop acting like other people are doing you favors, and instead just be completely virtuous and then note that you're doing a favor for them if you approach them to work together. This got a little pushback, with one team member saying, "Can we rephrase it as "Don't come across like you're asking for something from a position below them, talk to people as if you're on equal standing and in a mutually beneficial relationship with them"?" Here's my reply -

So, I played Dungeons and Dragons when I was 12 years old. Great game, lots of fun. You get to have storytelling and roll dice and it's really just neat.

But I remember one time, I was confused that there was a "treasure table" that was roughly the same for all characters. Meaning, good characters and evil characters got the same amount of gold/treasure/magic items/whatever.

That didn't make any sense to me. The heroes were famous and loved by society, the villains were evil and wretched and spent all their time chasing gold, so certainly the villains should at least wind up with more gold, right?

And my DM - Dungeon Master - said no, that's not the case. The evil person plots and schemes all the time, and gets gold that way. The good person just does right for everyone, and thus the grateful villager or king gives them gold and magic weapons and whatever.

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