Please, Talk to Strangers
By Miles Dumville
Never underestimate the power of strangers. Strangers have the ability to change your life for better or for worse in much less time than even the best of friends can. Let’s not forget that the people you consider your college compadres held the title of perfect stranger not so long ago—less than a year ago for freshmen. Meeting them proved to be just as awkward as meeting any other stranger, possibly even as awkward as that dream where you’re walking around in your underwear and everyone else is dressed and laughing at you – which maybe wasn’t a dream for those of you of the partying persuasion. Even your college sweethearts, for those who have them, were part of the unknown gray mass of incoming freshmen not so long ago.
This past weekend I took on the shameful title of the suitcase student and my travels took me to Baltimore, Maryland for an action-packed weekend of music, mooching off coffee shops for free Wi-Fi schoolwork, and not knowing where I was going to sleep at night – by the way, I now completely vouch for the accuracy of HBO’s “The Wire.”
Other than the friends who accompanied me and a few members of touring bands, I knew no one in this cold city. Sleeping in the car in Baltimore proved highly uncomfortable, cold, and not in the least bit safe, just as I had anticipated it to be.
At the first show on Saturday night, not only did some amazingly talented bands play, but some amazingly kind people were met as well. Maybe its just the punk scene, but ever since I started going to shows as a young and meddling kid—yes, that is a “Scooby Doo” reference—I have noticed a profound sense of trust between all those attending. Like the nurturing arms of a parent, this trust was extended to my friends and I in the form of a stranger not any older than us who was willing to put us up for the night.
So we spent the night in a warm apartment near Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium with our new Baltimore friend and one of the bands from Brooklyn. This meant a great deal to me, not only because it involved a free place to stay without reverting to the cold, potentially dangerous confines of the car, but also because it reinforced something that I already had faith in: the fact that sincerely good people do exist in this often competitive, selfish world of ours where charity often comes from the pages of college applications and resumes and not from the heart.
Sunday arrived and involved more Wi-Fi mooching, food in the Inner Harbor area, and two absolutely euphoric shows by one of my favorite bands. The weekend was a complete success and much of that was possible through the kindness of people I didn’t even know before it started.
I apologize for writing a corny, feel-good, “Pay It Forward”-type story, but I feel like some good can come from this – that’s probably what Catherine Ryan Hyde said when she wrote the book. For all of you who plan on turning the page on this article with the response, “That was sketchy,” I challenge you to put yourself in the trust and mercy of a stranger someday before you leave this institution and have a place of your own. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be careful and use common sense, as our parents weren’t lying when they said, “This world is full of nutcases,” but if you go about it the right way, you too can have potentially life-changing experiences that, if nothing else, teach you how to be a better giver in turn and for the right reasons.