I’m secretly kind of shy. I seem outgoing, but if there’s one thing I hate more than anything else it’s asking strangers for things. Anything. There’s nothing rational about it. I have no real fear of what will happen, but there it is anyway.
But Sandy has no such fear, and for the last two days has been making new friends left and right. Everywhere we go, he’s been getting life stories and restaurant recommendations, along with names, photos, and the occasional business card.
There was Pat, the used book lady at the Marquette IA flea market who told us about her work as a Red Cross hotline volunteer in the floodplains and about the time she and the other flea market salespeople had to hide under a bridge because there were tornadoes coming. She also explained in great detail how they manage to pack all those books in their camper (“See those flats, they go three across, four high.”)
There was Brigitta, a fellow amateur photographer getting scenic shots at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis with whom Sandy swapped lens advice. He also advised her to get broadband internet and join Flickr.
There was also Jim, the former Chicago State Professor we met at the hamburger stand in Elkader, IA; Elmer, the proprieter of Elmer’s Toy and Auto Museum in Fountain City, WI; and the quartet of folkies playing bluegrass at the cafe in Stockholm, WI.
Every time he strikes up a conversation with a stranger, I find myself confronting my own anxieties. I feel sort of embarrassed and nervous, and I tend to look away or wander off.
But I’m getting better at just going with it. After all, it’s not like he’s making me do it. We are different people and we can handle things differently. (Thank you, years of therapy.)
So, when we stopped on a bridge in Minneapolis, and Sandy struck up a conversation with a cigar-smoking chad and his pretty fiance, and started asking for advice about places to go to see live music, I took a deep breath and hung in. And twenty minutes later, when we settled in for The World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band at Nye’s Polonaise, I was pretty glad I married someone who likes to talk to strangers.