stranger (n.)

If we were to play a word association game, and you were to say ‘stranger,’ my automatic response would be ‘danger.’ It rhymes, and it’s been drilled into me since I was wee. As kids, we’re told again and again to avoid strangers — not to talk to them (even the OED’s example sentence for the word is this well-worn directive), accept rides from them, or take candy from them. Except on Halloween. Those are the rules.

Never one to follow the rules, I’ve always been liable to talk to strangers. As a kid who moved around a lot, talking to strangers meant easily making new friends wherever we went. As an adult, this inclination has come in handy again and again, at school, at work, and particularly during my travels. The payoff has been great: free meals, rides, places to stay for the night, a place to live, lifelong friends. Spontaneous adventures and unforgettable conversations. And lots and lots and lots of stories that otherwise would have remained unknown to me.

I was thinking about all of this while on a shoot in Ontario the week before last. Recruiting subjects for our video could have been intimidating and torturous — but it wasn’t, because I’ve always had such incredible luck with the words “Hi, I’m…”

— Chelsea