Encountering Strangers

New York is a big city filled with thousands of people; people with different cultures, ethnicities, lifestyles, economic levels, etc. Therefore, most people in New York are strangers to each other, while some are open to meeting new people, and others are concerned in their own lives. First hearing about this project, I knew it would be difficult to hold a conversation with a stranger in New York, because most of them try to avoid small talk with a person they never met. I know this from experience, because I witness it on the train, and in stores around my neighborhood. People in New York have a tunnel vision when they walk, being only concerned about where they have to be at that moment. Taking this into account, I focused on interviewing strangers around my neighborhood who stopped at our local Deli, because I knew they would be a lot more friendly then people on the subway or in the city.

The first stranger I encountered was walking into the deli in my neighborhood. She was a lean, white, middle-aged woman who seemed to be taking her time walking into the store. She was walking her dog, and stopped to tie the leash around a pole. I did not want to start the conversation in an awkward way, so I thought talking about her dog was a perfect ice-breaker. I asked her questions about what kind of dog it was, when she got it, how old it is, and how she ended up getting a dog. She was a very nice woman, who took her time to answer my questions, and did not seem like she was in a hurry. Surprisingly, she really opened up to me, telling me how she always wanted to own a pet store, but never got the opportunity. She expressed her love for animals, and advised to me to always follow my dreams. I asked her what her current occupation was, and she said she was an accountant. That is on the far end of the spectrum from love of animals, which shows how her life did not turn out how she planned. By talking to this woman, I not only realized that in order to be happily successful I have to go after my dreams, but also realized that not everyone in New York was in such a hurry to get somewhere, or so conserved in their own lives.

The second stranger I encountered was inside of the deli, in the drink section picking up some beers. I casually went up to him and introduced who I am and my assignment. He seemed like he was in a hurry, but still stayed for a couple of minutes of conversation. I asked him who he was, what he did for a living, and what his thoughts on the current rise of beer prices were(I tried to pick a topic that was relatable-beer prices rose in our deli). He explained that he was a real estate agent, originally from New Jersey. He said, “I knew the economy isn’t doing so well, but I didn’t think it would extend to everything, even beer.” I agreed with him on the matter, and then he proceeded to explain how he was in a hurry to get to his house to watch a football game. When we were discussing the rise of beer prices, he felt more calm and relaxed talking to me, probably because it was the only thing we had in common.

The third stranger I encountered was not as nice as the first two. It was an older woman who was on line at the deli, waiting to pay for a carton of milk. I was on the line behind her, and introduced myself and the assignment. At first, she was ignoring me, trying to look straight ahead and pretend I was not there. However, I proceeded to talk about the assignment, and she finally turned around. She said, “What kind of assignments do they give you in school now a days? How can you just go up to someone and ask them random questions? I hate these weird school projects, so I am sorry but I do not feel like discussing my life to someone I do not know.” I immediately accepted her response and walked out of the store. I actually expected the younger people to try and get away from the situation, as opposed to an older one who I would assume would find discussing her life interesting and accompanying. However, I was mistaken, as the older lady was annoyed and somewhat angry because of the school system now a days. Overall, all three strangers were very different from each other, and I learned a little from each one.


One response to “Encountering Strangers

  1. Brava, V! I LOVE how your first encounter ended in affirmations of the importance of pursuing one’s dreams! A corner store/deli/bodega is an ideal field site for an assignment like this. It was a great idea to conduct all three interviews in one location, and nice how they turned out to be so different. Good move altering your intro to make it relatable to different people. I think it’s marvelous that the third respondent turned out to be somewhat rude and unhelpful, especially after that first encounter which was practically a Disney movie — it makes the portrait as a whole quintessential New York.

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