Ode to Strangers

Have you ever played the “people” game, where you watch the people around you and make up a story about them? Say, you’re sitting in a café having a cup of coffee and you watch the customers come and go. For each one you make up some sort of crazy backstory based on their attitude (good or bad) or something they’re wearing.

For instance, that woman with the silver sky-high bouffant hair and neon pink suit is a dog groomer who specializes in poodles that frequent the canine beauty pageant circuit.  At one time, she was in beauty pageants herself, and won quite a few medals too, but she didn’t want her talents to go to waste so she combined her love of dogs and her love of outdated hairstyles to create a really successful business. Go ahead and mock, but she could buy and sell just about everyone in the café.

The guy in the ratty jeans (and not in a designer $500 a pair way), muddy boots, and stained jacket but oh so perfect hair, just got back into town. His best friend was abducted by aliens and he spent the better part of the last three days digging pits and booby-trapping his backwoods cabin and he’s only in town long enough to pick up his hair pomade and an espresso before he heads back up to the cabin to await the return of the alien mothership.

Hey, I can do this all day. A man walks in wearing an expensive looking tracksuit. He’s handsome and fit. Most likely has a bit of money but wait! What’s this? A fresh scratch on his cheek. He seems to be in a bit of hurry. Let me put it all together really quick. A good looking, athletic man who looks like he may have gotten into a bit of a scrap with a certain feline adversary. Don’t worry Batman, your secret’s safe with me.

I personally like to play the “people game” in reverse. That’s when you dress up before going out and let people have a stab at your backstory.  Throw on some weird outfit and head to the grocery store or the drug store or wherever you need to go. Not now… right now, you just need to stay home, but when things are safe again, consider adding some fun to a stranger’s day – and your own. Wear that bright purple cowboy hat with the tassels (on the hat!) along with your yellow fishnets and jogging shorts. And don’t forget to throw on that “Pink Ladies” satin jacket that you bedazzled the hell out of for a laugh last Halloween.

On a closing note, I’m reminded of a story from a friend of mine. It’s always brought out and dusted off on those nights out when the stories told around the table invariably start with, “this one time, I was so drunk…”  During his time in art school, he and a few classmate chums had a presentation to do prior to graduation. I forget the details of it, but during the day of said presentation, they all decided to get nice new haircuts to go with the matching suits they rented to wear. And no, I have no idea why they rented suits, and matching ones at that. From what I understand, they looked like a 4-man crew of Ray Liotta à la Goodfellas impersonators.  Anyway, the presentation went great, or so I’m told. Drunk with the joy that is having your final project graded and behind you, they decided to splurge, you know, as one does. So, they went to a somewhat nice restaurant to eat and chat and generally celebrate. They ordered wine and way more food than anyone in their right mind should be ordering… or eating for that matter (on the other hand, yay! leftovers!).  Yeah, you could say they went a bit overboard. Due to the constant flurry of wait staff at their table and the trays upon trays of food and drink that kept materializing in front of them, people took notice. You wanna know what else they noticed? The suits. The haircuts. I mean, really, matchy matchy for a presentation is a bit much on its own, but cosplaying a Goodfellas tribute band?  Yet, here we are – we wouldn’t have the story without a few bad choices.

As a family of 6 was making their way past the table to be seated at an adjacent booth, one awestruck teenager whispered to his mom, “see, I told you the mafia comes here to eat.”  Needless to say, the whole family kept their eyes down as they scurried to their table.

Oh, how we must look to strangers sometimes.

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