There are rare moments in traveling when two people decide to open themselves up to interaction with a stranger rather than shut themselves up into the cage that music, reading, sleeping, or however we choose to occupy ourselves, puts us into. Our coats and bags in the empty seat next to us make a loud and clear statement – “Don’t sit next to me. Leave me alone.” Moments of interaction are rare because while traveling alone, we all prefer to get lost in our own world as interaction with other people requires so much effort and more often than not, grace.
I witnessed such a moment occur between a young lady and a young man sitting in front of me in the 5th hour of the 8-hour-long bus ride to New York City I took last week. She wore a black leather jacket with an ‘Occupy Pittsburgh’ patch sewed on the back and that was how their conversation started. I silently observed this as I sank my teeth into a cream and blueberry danish. She was a professional activist when she was in California and is obviously still one today. She’s 21 and she plays the guitar. She must have a very large purse because she pulled a mid-sized dog out of it, which remained completely hidden in the first 5 hours of the journey, when she moved her coat and bag as the young man came over to sit next to her.
I don’t know much about the young man because I barely heard him talk. Yes, I’m wondering if he is simply trying to pick her up but the less cynical part of me was dominant that day.
I have never known myself as a stranger and I wonder what type of stranger I am to others. I wonder if during my travels I was once the stranger who engaged and revived. Maybe I have made a semi-permanent imprint in the mind of another stranger as the young and naive international student. If I haven’t, I hope to one day. Of course I hope the reason of that imprint to be a worthy one; if otherwise, maybe it doesn’t really matter, as long as I don’t simply fall through the cracks my entire life.
What type of stranger do you imagine yourself to be?