Ege’s post from last week reminded me of a day about a year ago when I spilled coffee all over myself on the Karaköy ferry. As I performed various acrobatic poses in order to escape the spilled coffee’s path, the people around me (two on either side and three across from me) didn’t look up from the various screens in front of them. Although the main theme regards our evolvement into ‘beings who stare at screens,’ and are therefore incapable of helping each other, we do posses a general handicap when it comes to communicating with strangers. Just like Ege wrote, perhaps the first condition of continuing humanity is to succeed in establishing this communication. As a busy and angry population, we envy other countries where supermarket counter clerks crack jokes or people say ‘good morning,’ to one another on the streets. Perhaps, it’s not so difficult to include the small joys derived from these acts of propriety in our daily lives.
For example, I braided a little girl’s hair in the metro the other day. As her mother was struggling with a shuffle of bags in the way, I said “I can braid your daughter’s hair if you like?” There was no awkward staring at all, instead both of them had such mirth and appreciation in their eyes that I will not forget that moment for a long time.
During a recent exhibition, when I told a woman in her 60s how lovely her face is, she thanked me with a mix of joy and surprise. When her friend tried to explain her reaction by saying, “she’s acting surprised because of her modesty,” I responded by saying, “I think she’s surprised because people don’t complement each other very much anymore.” They agreed.
Of course I’m not saying you should walk around the streets looking for strangers who you can bestow with your help or compliments or that you should strike up conversation about current events with strangers just for the sake of communication.
After determining that people who have short interactions with strangers are happier, I’m simply saying that if you feel like making a nice gesture, don’t abstain because of a fear that it may appear strange. And be open. Just like Kio Stark says:
“When you talk to strangers, you’re making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life and theirs.”