Monthly Archives: December 2016

Talking to Strangers

On a train ride home today. Brown line in Taipei, meaning narrow cars where there’s just enough room for one person to stand between the seats that are facing each other. It was crowded. Evening rush. Blue seats are reserved for the elderly, the pregnant, and children. Green seats are for general seating. It’s crowded, so one young guy sat down in the priority seating. He gestured. “There’s a seat free.” I gestured to the man standing between me and the seat. “Will you sit?”

The man moved out of the way, and I sat.

The young guy who sat down first must have been in high school. “Someone asks us to move later, we could always apologize.”
“Or, we could just offer the seat if we see someone in need.” I offered.
“Yeah.” he said.

I got out my phone and started reading. (Retropia installments from the Archdruid Report blog.)

“If I find keys, I tell the police.” He said.
“Did you find keys today?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No, but if I find keys, I tell the police.”
“That’s good.” I nodded, and continued to read.

“If I find keys in a store, I tell the police. I tell the police.” He said.
“That works. But why not just tell someone who works at the store?”
“I tell the police.” He insisted.
“Yeah, that’ll work, too.” I nodded, and continued to read.

The train stopped, and the person sitting across from him stood up and got off. A woman who got on sat down.

“If I find a wallet, I tell the police.” He said, looking at her.
“Do I know you?” she asked.
He shook his head. “If I find a wallet, I tell the police.”
My eyes were down as I was reading, so I couldn’t see the woman’s facial expression, but could see her she get up, and walk toward the doors, standing in the area in between the doors.

“I think I scared her.” said the young man.
“Yeah, it looks like it.” I agreed.
“Hey, sorry.” He apologized to her. The woman didn’t acknowledge him. “I’m sorry.” He repeated, this time in Taiwanese, rather than Mandarin, to show his sincerity.

The train stopped at a station, some people got off and some people got on, confirming that the woman had stood up just to get away from him.

“You know, maybe you should just smile and nod.” I offered.
He nodded. I continued reading.

“Sometimes people are scared of me, but I would never do anything bad. I’m the sort of person who’d never do anything bad. Never. Never do anything bad.”Yeah. I said. “But people aren’t used to talking to strangers. Maybe you should just smile and nod.”
This seemed to make sense to him, and he nodded. “But if I find keys I tell the police. Tell the police. Doesn’t matter if I’m riding my bicycle.” At the next stop, the woman got off.
“Bicycle! Do you like bicycling?”
“Yes, and if I find keys, I tell the police.”
“That’s nice.” I continued reading.

The train arrived at my stop. “Well, hey. This is my stop. I’ll see you.”
“Bye.” he said.”Bye.” I said, and got off.