I talk to strangers
This week’s column is about community. It’s about friends and strangers and tropical vacations.
Oh, and also about baseball.
Last week I was watching the World Series from Maui, a pleasant Hawaiian island filled with Californians and other West Coasters from places such as Vancouver, Seattle and Oregon.
The scene was Friday afternoon at a resort on the Kaanapali coast in northwest Maui. I was at that beautiful location accompanied by my wife and my aunt, neither of whom had much interest in baseball.
So after a few innings I wandered from our condo to the nearby bar/cafe, hoping to commune with baseball fans. To my luck, several couples from SoCal had just arrived at our resort, and decided to head to the bar while the kids headed to the pool.
The Dodgers were playing the Red Sox, so we chatted while they batted and we bitched while they pitched. People I had never met until an hour ago, and who had only vague ideas about where Selma was (“do they grow peaches there?”) were now party pals.
For an hour or so we hung out together, downing fruity rum drinks, telling stories and watching baseball. That small corner, 50 feet from where a lively game of “Marco Polo” was being played in the pool by those under the drinking age, was our community — a gang held together not by choice but by chance of being in the same bar at the same time.
All of us need communities, both short-termed and life-long. They don’t have to include sports, a lesson I learned about 6 p.m. that same day when a larger crowd gathered on the beach to watch the daily sunset.
Nobody does sunsets like Hawaii. And they are even more popular than Dodgers and fruity rum drinks. Like ballgames, each sunset is different from the day before. An ocean sunset, framed by palm trees, is one of the most soothing scenes to grace our eyeballs. Last week strangers shared sunset photos from their phones, oohing and aahing like a July 4 fireworks show.
A community of random strangers sharing a common experience. It happens to all of us — at rock concerts, movies, mountain vistas, natural disasters.
But those experiences are fleeting. We rarely see the baseball fans, the concert lovers, the sunset oohers, after sharing a moment with them.
Instead, we return to our “regulars” — family, friends, co-workers, church flock, Selma neighbors. They are the people who matter, who give us purpose. Without them, life would be a lonely existence.
Still, let’s not deny ourselves those experiences with strangers, be it on a tropical beach, a concert arena, a ballpark or bar and grill somewhere far from home.
I was reminded of that one more time on Sunday night, at a dinner party with some friends of my aunt’s who also were visiting Maui.
My new best friend David, whom I had just met the day before, greeted us with a T-shirt that read, “I talk to strangers.”
You’d be surprised, he said, how many strangers stop him and ask about that shirt — and want to talk.