Talking to Strangers : NYC Edition
Most of my close friends who know me well, know that I have a tendency of striking up conversation with strangers. I could be walking down the street in Milan and hear a group of people speaking in Hebrew and begin a convo with them or I can see someone wearing a unique piece of clothing or accessory and comment on it. The possibilities are limitless.
The reaction I often get from my friends when they witness me striking up a convo with a stranger or me recounting an encounter that previously occurred, is, "I could never do that". I could understand why it may seem intimidating, in fact, there are even moments it is for me. My usual response to them is,
"You never truly know the positive outcome of putting yourself out there, unless you try."
If you already think I'm crazy or relate to my friends in that you could never do that, this would be the worst moment to recommending you Malcolm Gladwell's book Talking to Strangers, which further analyzes and depicts how little we know about people in general and even those people we believe are closest to us. This book can legitimately make you question your longest and most trusted relationships. So only read it if you dare.
Anyway, back to my story.
The old me would have never entertained the idea of starting up a convo with someone I know nothing about, especially out of the blue. Yet over the last few years of practicing this uncomfortable action, I can confidently attest that more often than not, these encounters have led to some unique conversations and even some long term friendships.
New York is known as one of the most chaotic, packed and energetic city in the world. Naturally there is this duality between being one of the most crowded city and the most loneliest place in the world. This can make forming new relationships and friendships a daunting experience, even for someone naturally social. At least in my case, it was. Therefore in the unique case a relationship or encounter occurred organically, I was grateful.
During my short stint living in NYC, upon my first Saturday morning was dedicated to looking for an apartment. Prior to what I learned would be the most discouraging experience of my life, (re-NYC housing issues. I kid you not, it is the WORST), I had planned to grab a quick snack at Ralph's Coffee (the Ralph Lauren bar attached to its' boutique) in the Upper East Side (what I believed was one of the most native Manhattan bougie things to do on a Saturday morning). When I arrived, I saw a lineup around the corner which immediately turned me off. For those of you who know me well, you can confirm that I do not do lineups. I guess my disappointed sigh was loud enough for the woman beside me to turn to me and say, "I know... I wanted a coffee too. I used to come here before anyone knew about this place."To my surprised, the woman added,
"I have another amazing coffee shop, come with me.
By the way, I am Lisa."
I would say I followed her but it was more like I ran after her. The New York rush is not unique to business days but rather something that is ingrained in you from the moment you arrive to the city.
Something I was completely unaccustomed to after living in Florence for 3 years.
In minutes, both Lisa and I arrived to the coffee shop and my heart skipped a beat. It was the complete opposite from Ralph's Coffee in the sense that it was casual, authentic and very Italian style. It made me feel as though I discovered a taste of home (Florence, Italy) in the heart of Manhattan.
Lisa and I sat for 2 hours and chatted about life, living in NYC and working in fashion (yes, she happened to work in the industry for years!). Not only that, but we discovered that her nephew was studying at a university in Canada and has been loving it! What are the chances?
It turned out to be the best saturday morning I could have asked for. Especially since I was just getting acquainted to my new life in Manhattan.
By 12:45 PM, I had to make an exit for my first apartment viewing. Lisa and I left the coffee shop and ended up heading in the same direction. As we got closer to the apartment where I was meeting the real estate agent, Lisa's motherly instincts kicked in and offered to come view the apartment with me. Given how stressed I was with finding the perfect apartment in what I had heard has been the worst housing market in history, I could not be more thankful to Lisa, a native New Yorker, for her support, advice and kindness.
Although I didn't find my apartment that day, I was thrilled to have made a new friend with the perks of getting to know the insider scoop on apartment hunting in NYC. But our story doesn't end here...