Originally created 06/19/03

People are strangers only if you haven't met them



I walked into the house from the back yard after having mowed the grass. I was panting. I was sweating so profusely that even my toes squished in my soaked sneakers. I was sunburned. The last thing I expected was a thunderous round of applause.

Applause? I was the only person at home.

Then I remembered that I was taping an album by Nina Simone, the jazz/blues singer who recently died. One of the songs she had recorded live had just played on my stereo as I entered the house.

I never really knew anything about Nina Simone until her death, at which time Dan, a co-worker, loaned me one of her compact discs to give me a taste of her music.

I like discovering old music I never knew existed. It's like meeting new people. One of the great heartaches of life, though, is knowing there is a whole world of people out there whom we will never get to know.

That's why I always try to stop to say hello to strangers.

The other day, for instance, I was going to my car in a parking garage when I noticed an elderly man who seemed to be taking a long time unlocking and getting into his big sedan. I wanted to make sure he was all right without actually asking him whether he was all right.

I stopped my car and rolled down my window.

"That's a new Mercury, isn't it?" I asked.

It was, and he proceeded to tell me all about it - that he had just bought it and gotten a great bargain. He went into such great detail - how he and his wife had traded down from a Lincoln because the Continental was no longer manufactured, but that they are happy with the Mercury - that I finally had to stop comparing car notes and go pick up my wife.

It was good to find out, though, that the gentleman was having no problems at the moment. (And that a love of cars doesn't have to die, no matter the driver's age.)

On that same trip, my wife and I pulled over at an interstate rest stop. When she came out of the ladies' room, the only person waiting, besides me, was an elderly man.

"Your wife nearly fell, but she said to tell you she's OK and will be out in a minute," she told the stranger.

While we waited for his wife to come out, we exchanged pleasantries and travel tales. We found out that the man's wife had just had hip surgery and was still slow getting around. She also had broken other bones in various accidents that would have kept me home or hospitalized. These two weren't going to be stopped by a few injuries, though, and were driving from Texas to Alabama. I'm sure they made it fine.

We got back into our own car and continued our journey, a 12-hour trip interrupted only by rest stops. We were eager to get home from visiting relatives, to sleep in our own bed. To make the drive seem shorter, we listened to novels recorded on cassette tapes that my wife had bought or had checked out of the library. (I had forgotten to bring Nina Simone along.)

The miles rolled away, and on the cassettes, murders were committed and solved, politicians were elected and ousted. The stories eased our pain.

Still, if that trip had taken one more minute, or one more mile, I would have been comatose. Twelve hours of watching the interstate is enough for me. I'd rather be home mowing the grass, or listening to old music, or talking with new friends.

Reach Glynn Moore at (706) 823-3419 or gmoore@augustachronicle.com.