Oh, the people you'll meet. In a lifetime, even up until just now, the number of totally random awesome people you meet is incredible and serves as an encouragement to keep mingling with the rest of the human race. Whether it's a chance encounter on a rainy day, a mysterious new stranger in town or the guy the next pump over at the gas station, the chance to meet someone new gives each day an adventurous air.
I'm definitely talkative, definitely not shy. There are days when I like to mind my own, keep my nose down, keep to myself I think it was a Thursday. But when I'm out and about, I like to hear from my friends, to hear their tales of woe and / or victory. Most times I end up talking to friends, but new people always intrigue me. There are so many cool and interesting people in the world, and I can hardly let the opportunity to hear a great story or make a new friend pass by.
I meet people both because of a curiosity about the backstories of others (which I guess is a byproduct of being in journalism) and because of an innate lack of self-censorship and inhibition that sometimes gets me in trouble but can end up with me making someone's acquaintance. I put out my cool-person radar, which is quite attuned to finding the kind of oddballs, weirdos and nerds I enjoy. Then you wait for the blips.
Sometimes, it's a simple "hi-how-ya-doin'." Sometimes, the person is a dud. Sometimes, you talk enough to add another name to your Facebook arsenal. And once in awhile, you find a keeper.
But imagine, if I had that theoretical off-switch that most people have that keeps them from engaging in conversation with strangers, then I wouldn't have found out those twins sitting across from me at the cafe were from England, and I wouldn't have heard their awesome accents or stories about them hitchhiking around the country for the summer or ended up joining a conga line with them.
I definitely wouldn't have met many of my good friends I have today, most of whom had I not talked to them further would have been scared away by my bombastic karaoke style or bizarre fashion sense (well, at least in my Hot Topic years).
I wouldn't have met a visitor from Boston in town for the summer (who made my and my friend's "Not From Youngstown" radar go off - I have multiple radars) who after a couple days, plenty of conversation and tons of great dance moves, became one of the gang. And because I bet my friend $5 I could get his life story in five minutes. Oh, Aspasia, you owe me five bucks. And Daniel, you raised the bar for musical taste and dancing ever so much higher for all of us. Thanks for the memories.
I wouldn't have gotten to hold the Stanley Cup (or at least one of the licensed reproductions they let people drink out of) while solo at Stanley's in Chicago last summer. I met a group of people who, when they found out it was my birthday, implored the owner to let me hoist the coveted trophy above my head (well, above my elbows - it's heavy). In return, I serenaded them with some Led Zeppelin karaoke, and was given a standing ovation. Thanks, Chicago.
I wouldn't have met Matt Palka, traveling bohemian musician and filmmaker who makes Youngstown one of his satellite homes as he criss-crosses the country with his VW bus or motorcycle. Or my neighbor Hannah, who came to town to study us, but wound up staying here for good. Or the two art collectors I met while waiting for Idora Park fries at the Italian Fest who talked paintings with me while I ate. Or any number of the awesome artists, musicians, writers or miscellaneous who pass through town or call it their home.
Our small-town microcosm can be off-putting to those who are used to the anonymity of a big city. Kind of creepy. But it's easier to talk to people in a city where everyone knows everyone. It gives folks a friendly nature. And we're kinda starved for new people. So if I see you in line at Giant Eagle or sit next to you at the coffee shop or whatever, I'm not a maniac. I just want to say hi. And hear your life story.