The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

The Company You Keep

It’s a good time for the lonely. Wear a Bluetooth headset at the market, and you may speak to yourself with impunity while hunting for just the right melon.  Your phone can keep you company while you wait in line. It is easier to escape notice, to seek commiseration with a gadget.

It’s a Sunday morning, and in the parking lot the grown man moves out of his truck. Two women are parked in shiny mini-vans, talking on their phones and evaluating him. He wears a white visor, adjusts it, tousles his own hair. He tugs his shirt down over his stomach.  Feeling their eyes upon him he confers with himself, ultimately reaching back into the car to bring along his ipod. After connecting himself to the headphones, he walks on his toes and propels himself forward. To demonstrate his freedom, he mouths the words to the song in his ears. He’s after fruit, bread, and a bottle of aspirin, and he’s bringing the band along with him.


Istanbul, Coca-cola


15 comments on “The Company You Keep

  1. joannerambling
    August 19, 2013

    I don’t need my phone to keep me company I like my own company, but it does sound like an idea to act like you are on the phone when you don’t want someone to talk to you or think you are strange for chatting to yourself………………lol

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      August 19, 2013

      I agree! I often have to talk to myself, so maybe that’s a way to make it a more portable and socially-acceptable habit! 🙂

  2. Carl
    August 19, 2013

    There is a beautiful perception underneath this piece. I enjoyed it quite a bit!

  3. suej
    August 20, 2013

    Very perceptive – and I love that last sentence!

  4. nomaggsrush
    August 20, 2013

    In the UK, where “elf’n sayftie” is God, I have seen signs warning that pedestrians should Take Care when listening to a Mobile Device as this causes loss of attention to surroundings and Causes Accidents. Of course being deep in conversation with another person whilst walking is completely safe …..

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      August 21, 2013

      And depending on the traffic, pedestrians may need to be more than just aware of their surroundings! I had plenty of close calls with taxis in Istanbul!

  5. anglophiletoad
    August 20, 2013

    I have to say…I think these mobile devices are killing our sense of community. We shouldn’t be able so easily to block out the world around us. Plus, I’ve been talking to myself in public sans Bluetooth for years, so I think that ship’s sailed…:o)

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      August 21, 2013

      Haha, well, maybe you have created your own world-block there, my friend! I have been trying to catch people’s eye and smile more often. It leads to some interesting reactions. I’ll have to write about it soon.

  6. Allen Capoferri
    August 20, 2013

    I often thought so…

  7. Jeff
    August 21, 2013

    Iain Stewart has a theory that the Japanese developed the Walkman because the geology of the country causes the greatest overcrowding in the world, and thereby, an acute need for personal space.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      August 21, 2013

      An interesting theory! So in the farm states and Mountain West in America, where we have quite a lot of space, I wonder if the gadget is a way to bring the world closer?

      • Jeff
        August 22, 2013

        I think Stewart was talking about the motivation behind the invention rather than its subsequent uptake. But didn’t the inventor of the mobile phone come from the West coast?

      • thenicethingaboutstrangers
        August 22, 2013

        Hmm, I know very little about the West Coast of the US outside of Oregon. Wonderful produce there!

      • Carl
        August 22, 2013

        This is why I believe it was invented to help us feel as if we are not alone, whether we are in a crowded space or not. It’s sad but true that sometimes loneliness is most powerful in large crowds of people. We listen to our music and watch our TVs at home because we don’t want to be alone with ourselves, so they enabled us to comfort ourselves when we are out and about…

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