The Nice Thing About Strangers

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

Still Friendly After All These Years

The elderly woman is perfectly coordinated–a pink dress, a pale blue sweater, a pink and blue necklace, blue eyes, gray hair to her chin. Her daughter is her accessory, tucked under her arm so as not to cause a scene, but the woman holds her cane in the other hand with authority and grace. The daughter guides her along the sidewalk. They’ve just left a table with small trays holding the trappings of Viennese coffees–an small glass emptied of water, a wrapper emptied of chocolate, a dainty mug emptied of coffee and milk.

As they pass, the woman watches me instead of the ground. I nod at her with a smile and a “Grüß Gott.” She just stares calmly without a reply. Around here, people don’t greet strangers very often, but I do. Even after seven years of traveling and “helloing” only to receive curious glances or no reply at all, I still greet. I still grin. It is the truest part of me.  I can’t quite give up indiscriminate friendliness in favor of silent sophistication.

After they have passed, they stop at a light, and the woman turns her head slightly in my direction. The move is seamless, but perhaps as though she might look back over her shoulder. I take this half-glance as a victory. I am heartened by it, and I proceed to smile at all the unnerved strangers on the rest of my walk home.

–Döbling, Vienna, Austria.

doebling

18 comments on “Still Friendly After All These Years

  1. josiewosie
    September 19, 2016

    I love this story! I noticed the same thing when I began travelling, when I smile at strangers they rarely seem to smile back. Although, just as you mentioned, for me it is a habit and when I get that small response of a smirk or nod of a head it’s a total win in my books!

  2. joannerambling
    September 19, 2016

    I smile at strangers I hold doors for people and will say hi, how are you to many people I meet during the day.

  3. gonerustic
    September 19, 2016

    Smiling at unnerved strangers – love it! 😊

  4. Serendipitous Web Life. : )
    September 19, 2016

    Enjoyable writing, and good for you. It is also a part of me, and I am richer for it. Hold true to yourself and they will always be touched, although unspoken! Lovely!

  5. Alison and Don
    September 19, 2016

    I love this story. I love the line “I can’t quite give up indiscriminate friendliness in favor of silent sophistication.”
    I can’t either.
    Alison

  6. Darlene
    September 20, 2016

    Me too. It just comes naturally for North Americans. I don´t plan to stop!

  7. sarahhsid
    September 20, 2016

    I loved it! It’s always good to atleast pass a smile though I usually get those weird looks but then you never know you might just hellpp someone!

  8. fantac.cisse
    September 20, 2016

    I wish it was a thing French people do, unfortunately, and in Paris in particular, people tend to favor “Silent Sophistication” ^^ Wonderful little piece, thank you for sharing.

  9. Tomi
    September 20, 2016

    I generally find that the warmer the climate, the more likely people are to say hello and smile! Maybe that’s just me though!

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 27, 2016

      Tomi, interesting! People still said hello to me on frigid Kansas and Nebraska mornings, but when I was in Vermont it wasn’t quite the same. I wonder if the farm states folks store up all the grins from the very hot summers? 🙂
      Paige

  10. Nick van Dijk
    September 20, 2016

    Keep on Grüss Götting ‘;-D

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 26, 2016

      Nick,
      My German professor from Potsdam was so disappointed when I returned with a Viennese accent. He was even more shocked when I arrived with a Turkish accent. 🙂 I guess this is what it means to speak from the heart.
      Paige

      • Nick van Dijk
        September 26, 2016

        I zink he waz chocked, right ‘;-D

      • thenicethingaboutstrangers
        September 27, 2016

        Hehe, Nick! 😀 I was sitting here trying to remember “Richtig” but all that was coming to mind are Turkish words. Any language professor who gets me in class is in big trouble. This is definitely not my gift. The only difference is that I’ve become fearless in making mistakes. 🙂
        Paige

  11. Kim Karras
    September 20, 2016

    Oh, Paige, bless you and your indiscriminate friendliness.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 26, 2016

      Kim,
      I haven’t changed a bit. I’ve probably gotten significantly more outgoing and grin-giving. 🙂
      Paige

  12. Your description is so vivid, I feel as though I was a bystander in your moment. You welcome with your smile. How lovely. Perhaps it will become a trend, some day. Another wonderful post. Thanks for writing.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 26, 2016

      Thank you so much! 🙂 I appreciate the comment. I’ve enjoyed trying to re-create these scenes as well as I can. Photographers might do more justice, but I hope this gives the imagination a little workout. 🙂
      Paige

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This entry was posted on September 19, 2016 by in Austria, Europe, Travel.

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