According to Sam and Jim Commenting on things that irk us off, make us laugh out loud or just seem too weird too believe According to Sam and Jim: Gird Your Loins and Say Hi

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gird Your Loins and Say Hi

Did your parents tell you when you were a little kid, “Don’t talk to strangers?” Mine did. Then I told my kids that and they told their kids.

It’s a good thing to warn your kids about talking to strangers. Listening to the news sometimes it seems like it’s open season for snatching kids and taking them off somewhere to abuse and murder them. And the really sad thing is that many parents never know what happened to their kids.

But is it any safer to talk to strangers when we’re adults? Again, listening to the news might convince us that it is not okay. Women are abducted all the time and raped and tortured and murdered; sometimes men are too.

It was shocking to read in the news this week that a young man hitchhiking across country for the purpose of writing a book about the kindness of strangers was shot by a stranger whom the hitchhiker thought was offering him a ride. The hitchhiker is going to be okay and the shooter has been arrested, but you never know do you?

So, it is with a certain amount of suspicion and trepidation that I talk to strangers. I like talking to people and am considered rather outgoing, but I have moments when I don’t engage others in conversation for some reason or other. Growing up with parents who were suspicious of strangers and having been a cop for several years, I am pretty careful about whom I talk to.

Case in point: For several weeks when Sam and I went to the park for his walk this guy seemed to mysteriously show up about the same time - day after day. It didn’t appear to matter what time Sam and I arrived, he soon showed up. I became somewhat spooked and told my wife about the guy. He was dark skinned, wore a hoodie sweatshirt and sunglasses and didn’t seem to talk to or associate with anyone else.

I confess to developing some paranoia about the guy. I felt like I was being followed and spied on for some reason. I couldn’t imagine why because I hadn’t applied for a security job of any kind, I hadn’t sent threatening letters to a government official or written anything threatening in my blog. I don’t think I even looked at terrorist sights on the WEB. And Kathleen and I definitely had not filed for a divorce. So, what was the deal?

I decided to take the bull by the horns and approach the guy in the park and find out what his deal was. I decide that rather than ask him what the “h e double L” he was up to, I would just say, “Hey, I see you out here all the time and I’d like to meet you.” Hopefully, the guy wouldn’t pull a gun out of his pocket and blast me- though I swear I saw a gun in his pocket once.

So, I did it. One day the mysterious stranger was walking the opposite way around the park and when our paths crossed I spoke to him as friendly and politely as I could and told him I’d like to get to know him. I now feel so good about myself for doing that I think I might up and do it again.

Turns out the stranger was a retired 70-year longshoreman living with his daughter in Lacey. He was very friendly and said he came to the park for exercise because his doctor had encouraged him to do so.

Now, the stranger is no longer a stranger. We wave to each other, exchange greetings and pleasantries, shake hands and laugh over the weather or other events of the day. We’ll probably never go out for beers together but at least I can stop looking over my shoulder. Sam likes the guy too so that is doubly reassuring.

Two bags of poop on being stuck up and suspicious like I was. You do have to be cautious when approaching a stranger, but most of the time - if you’re not a lone woman or a little kid - it’s worth the risk.

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