People. Life is too short not to talk to people.
I got called a “rare gem” today based on being willing to have a conversation with a stranger. I don’t share that to brag, as that isn’t something, a title, I want to own. As much as it flattered me at the moment, it bums me out both then and now. It’s something I don’t understand. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t strike up a conversation with a stranger. They won’t all be gems, some you’ll want to escape almost immediately, but you’re going to learn something every time. It’s a guaranteed new experience.
I guess it’s something that takes confidence, I guess you can’t be shy… But ask any of my girlfriends. I’m not a walking mountain of confidence – heck, I have been and can be a massive ball of insecurity. A little less every day, a lot less lately, but it’s there.
I see people all the time on trips similar to mine avoiding eye contact, brushing off conversation – not being giggly and shy but rather simply deciding not to give me or the others around them the time of day. I wonder why and how that is. What a miserable existence that must be, to filter who you think you should spend your valuable time talking to. How do you make new friends? Job contacts? How do you ever intend to meet the one?
I’m not suggesting you strike up a conversation with every shifty-eyed man you come across. If you’re in a sunny public area and they smile, why wouldn’t you say hello?
It was 10:30 a.m. and I was getting ready to catch the 22-minute train ride to Monte Carlo, Monaco. I wasn’t going to catch the 10:53, but definitely the 11:23. There was a knock at the door – “housekeeping” – and a guy came in and asked if he could strip the beds of my two departed roommates. I peeked out of the bathroom, face covered in moisturizing lotion because I do girly things like that on occasion. “Sure!”
We spent the next two hours talking.
He’s from New York and moved here recently. He’s 33. “I’m older than I look.” 100% true. Twenty minutes later he would tell me I seem way older than I am.
I really hope when I’m thirty I seem thirty.
We talked politics, travel, life. He explained how he had always wanted to come to France. He had done a trip like mine and always wanted to come back. He told me how it took him ten years to return and now he sleeps dorm style in Nice, France, the furthest place from “real” France. “It’s like you decide you want to live in America, and you move to Las Vegas. It’s not real.”
We talked about the how the world is small and how everyone is stressed. Everyone is mad at their governments, everyone has the same needs. Every place is the same people, same cares, different tourist attractions. We talked about the Occupy movement. We talked about the difference between building a career and building a life.
We talked about the different points in our lives we’re at. He said, “I can’t afford to waste time anymore.” He says I’m not like most California girls that come through the hostel, and we make fun of the four girls at the hostel bar last night who sat there stirring their drinks and making eyes at the bartender all night. Granted, bartender is cute. I bought dinner from him and walked to my respective table across the room. Bartender then offered to wash my dishes for me, not the typical hostel way. I think he was relieved I wasn’t sitting there making him entertain.
My new friend’s shift at the hostel isn’t over, but his work is already done. He’d come to clean my room as a favor to a coworker. It’s an hour later, and we’re still sitting on bottom bunk beds chatting.
“And there’s this girl.”
This conversation is about to take a fun, less serious turn.
He tells me she works at a coffee shop he goes to often.
Okay, really fun turn. Anyone who knows me knows I spent Summer 2011: Part One hoping the boy at the coffee shop downstairs would know my name, and Part Two not paying for coffee… Among other, way better things as well.
He says he’s afraid to get attached. He’s too logical. All head, not heart, but he feels differently about her, more than any way he’s ever felt. She stuns him. She leaves him “speechless.”
“But she’s leaving town.”
“She’s going on her own tour of Europe… Or the world, or something.”
Two months?!? Friend, you can do a lot in two months. That’s plenty of time. You’ve at least got to have a first date!
“I know! That’s my problem, isn’t it? Why am I not allowing this to happen? For all I know, I could be rejected, but it could be two months of bliss. Even if it’s just those two months.”
Exactly! You never know what’ll happen. You might even end up on the Def Leppard guest list.
“So what do you think I should do? I should ask her out, right? I should. I’m going to. I’m going to. Life is too short.”
I’m beaming. I’m basically knees to my chin, arms around my knees glee-filled. This makes me happy.
That decided, I packed my bag for Monaco and he remade the beds.
The entire time we were talking, his coworkers thought we were hooking up.
Couldn’t be further from the truth.
Only after a jog to it, I caught the 12:53 to Monte Carlo. Oh the luxury, the glamour, the beauty… The money! All I did was walk and climb hills, walk down hills, climb other ones.
I’d gone to Monaco without a map. I’d left the train station and walked neighborhood streets downhill for quite awhile.
So, train station is up. That’s as far as I know.
I got myself super lost. I found a place called “Villa de las Garages” and that’s exactly what it looked like.
I was way up high and I wasn’t seeing a train station. I was seeing a setting sun and neighborhood streets that led to darker neighborhood streets.
I finally walked into a little hotel and asked the way to the train station. She laughed at me. I was 150m away from it. Above it.
I’d climbed the hill too dang high.
On the way out of the Nice Ville train station, a really tall guy said something to me, I apologized for not speaking French, he asked where I was from and then said “American, there is no oil here.”
It made me laugh. Ali is originally from Mali, has family in Morocco and lives in Nice playing reggae music. I told him I went to Morocco in 2009 and he said “Oh you travel a lot. That is why you are a good communicator.”
And at the stoplight, we two-cheek kissed goodbye and that was the end of my three-minute friendship with Ali.
Just talk to people. Everyone go make a new friend. Now.