A Short Story About the Difference Between Alex and Me

This weekend, we were sitting in a Chinese food restaurant (as we do now), and Alex saw some guy he recognized who was seated across the restaurant.

“Oh, hey, Jim!” he called.

I asked him who the guy was and he said, “Some guy I met on the bus.” Then he told me where the guy worked.

My brain almost literally could not understand those words.

Making enough small talk on a bus to find out someone’s name and where they work is incomprehensible to me. Especially in the amount of time that Alex spends on the bus on the rare days he rides it. He only goes about four blocks to the Metro station.

I would have to be on a bus for a long damn time before I made eye contact, much less a friend.

It’s almost like he doesn’t own sunglasses and headphones.

24 thoughts on “A Short Story About the Difference Between Alex and Me

  1. Even when I wear sunglasses and headphones, people start telling me their life story on buses and in grocery stores. I think I have “tell me your life story” stamped on my forehead. I noticed this happens to my mom, too. We don’t even have to make eye contact. They just start talking, and seem to know we’re too polite to just wander away from someone who is speaking to us. 

  2. Hilarious. That is Chris. He has many friends on the bus. Meanwhile, I could make it through an entire day without saying anything to anyone other than, “no thanks, I’m just browsing.”

  3. Ohhhh yes. I totally go by your public transportation rules. I loved living in London because there you’re a complete weirdo if you talk to anyone on the bus/subway at all. Ah, the sweet silence of everyone ignoring each other. :)

  4. Boy does this ring true for me. My mom’s the kind of person who can start conversations effortlessly, while my attempts to break the ice never seem to go anywhere.  It kinda baffles me too.

    (That’s assuming I want to be outgoing. Nine times out of ten I’d rather sit and listen to music.)

  5. Two things:

    First:  OMG, you are me and Alex is my husband.  I’ll bet Alex also enjoys talking to family members on the telephone. What’s up with that?

    Second: My coworker has a “bathroom buddy.”  Someone from another office in our building whom she sees sometimes in the bathroom and talks to.  She knows this person’s name and how many people in her family and what’s going on the company and what her hobbies are.  What I know about the people in the bathroom? Which ones like to talk on the phone while peeing.  

  6. For 5 years I rode the subway in Boston. Every single day.  I never spoke to any other passenger.  In fact I seem to remember pretending I didn’t see people who I actually did know.

  7. Because my work as a therapist deals with so many strangers, I have no interest at all in meeting more in public places. I am very private in all social situations.I have two children who are social opposites. The younger would always strike up conversations with supermarket cashiers and the older would whisper: Mom, I’m so embarrassed. Can you get him to stop?

  8. The only people who I have ever spoken with on a bus are crazy. I’m not making comments about Alex, other than his luck must be a lot better than mine. The last time someone started speaking to me, she was telling me about which groups of immigrants were good and hard-working and which ones were lazy and shouldn’t be allowed in. I assure you I said nothing to this woman to encourage this conversation, but I did exit the bus earlier than I normally do and walked the rest of the way home to get away from her!

  9. As often happens, I see a continuum of options regarding social engagement:

    First, on public transportation, I truly believe that the rule should be no eye contact *ever*; either read the news on iPhone / a book / magazine / news feed.  Also, no talking on mobile phones.

    Alternate options for public transit:  headphones.  Really.  [Who doesn't know this?]

    Secondly, my best friend’s family met *friends for life* while on EVERY vacation.  They still stay in touch.  My family’s vacations were not social occasions, thankyou. 

    Finally, my Grandma could engage anyone in conversation.  I have apparently inherited this trait, in that I often compliment parents on their [adorable, darling, smart, etc.] infants.  Yes, I am that person who compliments babies on their qualities.  I always tell the parents that I’m not trying to be intrusive, while mentioning how their child is really exceptional. 

    Also, I speak to people who have interesting dogs.  “Oh, is that a Bernese Mountain Dog?”  What kind of dog is that?  Is that dog friendly? 

    I think I should go back to my introverted norm, and stop engaging with people who do not know me. 

    Sorry to be so negative.  Not the best day here.

  10.  Jean I like this, and also counter by advising you to not move to Paris.  I love France, AND Paris, however there was a rather intrusive incident one time …
    Oh, never mind.  I still have friends in Paris, and I was rather cuter back then. 

  11.  Uh oh – my comment profile has gone bad.  I realize that you were posting about London, and I replied about Paris. 

    I can’t log in to DISQUS; however this is very likely user error on my part. 

  12. I think many of us on the innerwebs do not tend to be the outgoing social butterflies of the real world.  I’m betting Alex does not spend nearly as much time online as you do.

  13. Jesse and Alex sound very similar. Jesse can talk to freaking anyone and he actually seems to enjoy it. I don’t even know a lot of our neighbors names.

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