Orchard Beach

In the Company of Strangers


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I would be the first to admit that I don’t always listen to the Flight Attendants when they review the emergency information. I might pay attention the first time, but not when I am changing planes during the travel day. This time, I was caught off guard when the flight attendant began to tell us about an article that she recently read. The article was about how to make her job easier.

One of the first things she mentioned was that it made such a difference in the work day to be greeted warmly with a smile as passengers enter the plane. She said that each and every one of us did that and she thanked us. That message stayed with me the whole week as I watched the interactions between myself, my husband and complete strangers.

Our time in Maine this year was a unique opportunity to experience B & B’s and morning breakfast with complete strangers. I realized immediately how different it was. For the most part everyone was friendly, engaging, polite, kind and it was just the experience I hoped it would be. Conversations were breezier and in a short time it was fun to find out where people were from, where they were going and what had they done in the area.

We found out about occupations and the local economy of the area mostly because the staff had to leave to find work somewhere else for the winter. Electronics were not to be found at the table and an extra cup of coffee meant getting to know the person you had just met.

Hiking was the same way, a few minutes of conversation about how far to the falls, any tricky areas to navigate, history of the area, and how many times the locals had enjoyed the beautiful one mile hike. Truly everyone seemed to want to put their best foot forward.

One could say people who worked in hospitality jobs have to be polite; not necessarily so. Even the waitresses went out of their way to make sure everything was to our liking; change a channel to watch television, no problem; sample a beer before buying, ok. These simple acts of kindness made our trip memorable.

It makes me wonder why we can’t act politely when we get home, whether at work or in other situations. Work relations are not always so pleasant, undertones that make it a chore to walk in the door. Yes, work is stressful, hurried and workers feel overworked and underpaid; those are the usual complaints. But if we all tried to get along a bit better, smiled, made eye contact, showed a bit of appreciation, who knows it might make a difference.

I believe even family visits could be so much more enjoyable if we acted like we were in the company of strangers; engage, be present, communicate, show appreciation, shut off the electronics, smile and really look at someone when you are talking. I bet the visits would go so well, you wouldn’t want to leave and couldn’t wait to return, just like one of your best vacations.