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Monday, 11 January 2016

Sometimes, when I’m having an extrovert day, I strike up conversations with random people.

“How do you do that,” my fellow introverts might ask? My background in journalism helps. When I was freelancing for the Baltimore Sun, I learned on the job how to ask questions that encourage people to talk about themselves. (The answer, introverts, is deflection. I know you are skilled at this. Ask the questions that will get the other person to talk, so you can continue to listen and not have to talk about yourself.)

My husband claims that these oddball, amazing conversations only happen to me. Readers, you be the judge. Yesterday, I had my own “Humans of New York” moment in Boston.

I was traveling home from the get in a cab from the ALA Midwinter Conference hotel to Logan airport. It was raining. I’d had trouble with the shuttle bus when I arrived, so I took a cab.

Me to cabby: How are you?

Him: I’m old, fat, Republican, and cranky. How are you?

Ok, introverts. This is the moment of truth. In this second, I know that the way I answer will determine if I’m going to crash out in the back seat after a long day of schmoozing, or whether I’m going to chat with this character for the entire ride.

I decide to bite the lure.

Me: I’m middle aged, Democratic, tired, and happy.

The cabby and I proceed to talk football. He respectfully does not bring up the Ravens or the Patriots, but fills me in on a weekend of crazy Wild Card games. As we pull up to the Departures…

Me: Thank you for the football update. I’ve been talking about books all weekend.

Cabby: I love books. I’m a writer.

That perks me up. I’m a writer too, after all. We exchange: my book postcard for his pamphlet.

Cabby: I’m being published for the first time this month, in an anthology.

We squee as much as an old, fat, cranky, Republican and a happy, tired Democrat can over his first publication, a political essay. I give him a $5 tip on a fare under $15, because now I love this guy.

Here is the kicker: I get to the airport and take out his pamphlet. You guys, my lovely, Republican cabby wrote an essay that uses Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” to make an eloquent argument against a ban on abortion. What an extraordinary person. Well met, Mr. W. Birdwood. Here are a few lines from his pamphlet:

“It might be thought incongruous for so grand and solemn a thing … to be the spawn of a high school graduate who has been mostly homeless for 35 years, but wise people always respect the self-educated and know the spiritual freedom gained by the ascetic. 

“For 41 years, I have driven taxis in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Francisco. A broad and deep conversation has been conducted with the American People, who are found to be a people intent on being worthy of the sovereignty their nation’s charter invests in them.”

Let that sink in, “The American People, who are found to be a people intent on being worthy of the sovereignty their nation’s charter invests in them.” What a mind!

I’ll post some pictures of the pamphlet later today.

Thank you, W. Birdwood. As Ray Bradbury said, “They were all, when their souls grew warm, poets.” The end.

2 responses to ““Random Conversations” File, No. 1”

  1. Tabatha says:

    That’s terrific! So glad you had a “meeting of the minds,” however brief. I am an introvert who is prone to having random conversations, too. (I have had interesting conversations with women in restrooms…my husband says such a thing would never happen in men’s rooms).

  2. Donna Smith says:

    That is what I like about striking up random conversations! Loved this! There are always commonalities and amazing revelations. It is so exciting! Everyone truly has a story.

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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