Friday, November 4, 2011

Things you tell strangers

The people have spoken!

I was thinking about this blog on my drive to the train station this morning, and how I kind of don't want to write down what I tell strangers, as my friends and family read this blog. Which is the whole point of telling strangers your biz-nuss I guess. They don't know you.

This came about during my last half marathon, the Lowell Sun one Sunday in October. First off, I usually run alone. It lessens the risk of being embarrassed when people want to speed up, I like to get lost in my head, and I particularly enjoy the silence of running. I knew the race had some scenic portions (Yes, even in Lowell there is nice scenery) and I lined up by myself at the start line ready to have a 2 hour sojourn into the workings of my head while my body beat itself up running.

However, I heard someone call my name. It was Miss Debbie, Dylan's music teacher. I knew she was running the race, but not being friends, we had made no plans to meet up for it. In class we had said figured we wouldn't run into each other. To clarify, Miss Debbie (sorry, I have trouble calling her just "Debbie" as she is a teacher) is Dylan's Music Together teacher. For 12 weeks or so we meet with her for 45 minutes a week and sing songs like Teeny Weenie Spider, Shoo Fly, and jam on little tambourines. Basically she gets to see me act like an idiot trying to keep my 18 month old engaged in the class. However, the class is over in two weeks and I'm pretty sure I wont see her again. Unless we take her again in the spring.

We exchanged hellos and the race began. And...we were running together. Now, I can turn into a Chatty Cathy if I am in the mood and I guess that day all my usual running habits were gone as someone was running next to me who was pleasant and was working a lot harder than I was. So we began to chat. At first I wanted to distract her from her laborious breathing, but then I got on a roll.

And the floodgate opened.

Around mile 6 I realized I was in the middle of telling her about my bad reaction to anesthesia during my last surgery. It was like I snapped back in my body as the words "shot of epinephrine and Jon looked over the screen at my stomach." Not only was I telling her of how my heart kept wanting to stop or blood pressure bottomed was the story of my c-section and labor.

To be fair (and reassuring to myself) she seemed fine with it. Not only was she probably not listening because she was trying to breathe, but she was a mother 2 times over, and I think (THINK) she had started the labor conversation.

However, when you run races you are often not alone. Runners keep to packs for timing purposes even if they don't acknowledge you. I took a quick look around and sure enough, three men were running right behind us. And they all looked at me very strangely. One, I realized, had been coughing lightly...most likely to alert me to the fact that he was there. Miss Debbie just kept nodding and then told me about how her daughter was also a c-section. Here we were, two women who barely knew each other, speaking in public about operations and labor.

This is just one example of my lack of filter. Or failure to use it. Now, if someone I know asks me about my labor, I say it was long and ended in a c-section. That's it. I don't get into the gritty details. But this woman (and the men behind me) know things that most of my friends don't. So what is it about strangers? True, you'll never see them again. But that just leaves room for more...

Another example of something I have told strangers is the common one: lies. This one dates back to college, when it was considered safe to make up a fake name. That way if the strange men you got to buy you drinks came up to you another night you could say that wasn't your name and be on your merry way. My friend Janet (or is that her name?!) and I used to do this at the larger Albany bars where SUNY students went. We only knew each other and the bar was ours for the taking. We could be anyone, and chose names that we could barely remember half the time. I also went through some interesting majors in those conversations (most memorable: anthropologist, with a detailed plan for my senior thesis of visiting tribes in the Amazon). However, I also carried it over after college, having fun with people and telling them wild tales of my life in Russia. Ahem, yes. I admit I have told one or two people in the world that my name is Petra and I lived in Russia for a large portion of my life. To be fair, I didn't want to be talking to them, and pretending not to speak English is very convenient to get strangers to leave you alone. It was also quite amusing. Another one of my favorites is "It's ok, I used to be..." fill in the blank. I've used waitress (That IS true), in the band (just funny really), a sound engineer (my, I'm creative when I want the music in a bar to be turned down), and a nurse.

But the biggest culprit of stranger sharing information in on public transportation. Sitting on a bus next to a friendly old woman, or being stuck on a train in a tunnel for 45 minutes makes people really talk. I've had a man tell me about his dead mother and how she haunts him. A woman who told me about her cocaine problem, and how it wasn't really a problem. Once in the street, a man told me about his three children who he had basically left with their mother and wasn't going back.

Oh, and what happened at the race? At mile 8 I realized I didn't want to bore the poor woman anymore with my stories and true confessions and I pulled ahead and finished 12 minutes in front of her. So I ran away. I actually ran away from her.

Of course I saw her the next Wednesday in class and she was back to being Miss Debbie. The happy music teacher. I think she must have blocked all of my ramblings out in her focus to finish. Or, I'm just really boring and nothing stuck with her!

Essentially, strangers are free therapists who could possible follow you home and kill you. Just like real therapists.

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