The strangeness of strangers

Sometimes I talk to people I don’t even know. They have such interesting things to say.

“Fifty-two cards in a deck! Fifty-two cards in a deck!” A stranger on K Street once yelled at me.

“Fifty-two cards in a deck,” he went on to say.

I wasn’t arguing and with good reason: there are 52 cards in the standard deck. I think that’s an analytic statement, true by definition.

Analytic statements are always true except when they aren’t. I was going to bring that up, but it wasn’t the time to argue philosophy. He was getting violent, and I was running for my life.

Sometimes people I don’t know try to give me advice.

A Jamba Juice worker once told me that I looked lonely and sad.

All I want from Jamba Juice is my daily fix of nutritional smoothie, but in this case I got reminded of my romantic incompetence. I wanted a Razzmatazz to get me through the afternoon, but instead I got depressed. Living among and talking to others has its ups and downs.

Of course, I’ve been on the other side too. I’ve dealt out my fair share of abuse to people I don’t know.

Most of it happened last year when I lived on the first floor of Munson Hall. My room faced Eye Street, and my roommate liked to yell at the pedestrians outside.

Sometimes he would try to draw them into political discourse.

“Fire the liar!” is what we yelled during the height of the Clinton crisis. This was sort of a public service; America needs more open and honest political debate.

More often than not, though, we were just mean.

“Nice hat…(expletive of your choice)!” is what we yelled at guys with hats.

Our abuse had limits. For example, my roommate wouldn’t yell something like “Hey fatty!” at anyone who was actually fat.

Yelling “Hey fatty!” at thin people probably had all kinds of unanticipated consequences. This was a whole year before the release of TLC’s smash hit “Unpretty” (I’m sure I speak for an entire nation when I say that before that song and video, I had no idea the kind of hell thin, attractive people must endure). We were unenlightened then.

Anyway, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that people you don’t know are all crazy, unbearably perceptive or, in my case, abusive. They also are good at pointing out the obvious.

“It is really raining,” strangers will often say to you when you’re standing under an awning during a downpour, and you get to think “Oh good, it’s not just in my head this time.”

In most cases, people who point out the obvious are doing so only for my benefit.

“You should try breathing, boss,” a vendor once said to me as I was buying a pack of Camels. “Cigarettes are expensive!”

They sure are.

The best thing you hear out of strangers is not the stuff they say to you, but the stuff they say to each other.

“Do you remember that time we drove around the block?” I once heard a woman ask her group of friends. That made me appreciate my social life for once.

You also get to hear how other people are making their way through life, and occasionally you realize that you may be struggling, but you aren’t the only one.

One such person is Molly.

I’ve never met Molly, and neither has anyone I know, but we’ve overheard several people talking about her.

“Molly is like…totally weird,” is the consensus among several girls at GW. Apparently she shows different sides of herself to different people, and it’s causing a stir on campus.

Now that I know I’m not the only person who’s been misunderstood, I can find the strength to go on, and it’s all because of people I don’t know.

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