Sunday, October 29, 2006

Uninhibited for a Day

Last night, the streets were filled with costumed adults heading to and from parties and bars. At one point, a guy dressed like Robin jumped in front of the restaurant window I was sitting behind, and posed for the 4 or 5 tables within view. Then in a flash he was gone. We were all left smiling and amused.

It made me wish I saw things like that more often. Halloween gives you a license to be goofy and silly in public. People get away with things they wouldn't normally do, and everyone seems a bit happer.

A friend of mine was recently detailing her experience last Halloween. Over the course of her 30 minute walk across town, people of all shapes and sizes were coming up to her, introducing themselves, telling stories, asking about her costume, being goofy, and just about any other good natured interaction you could imagine. It was one of her most fun and memorable nights in years.

I had a similar experience a few years ago. I literally made friends with two different groups of total strangers that night, and had conversations with many other people. People who would have just walked right on by if it were any other night of the year.

Now I realize that it isn't practical to just talk to random people every day of your life, or you'd never be able to get where you were going. But why is it that a random conversation or kidding around with someone in line while buying a cup of coffee makes us so happy? It makes us feel safe and connected with the world around us.

If we enjoy it so much, why does it happen so infrequently? Why don't we just strike up conversations with strangers more often. Why not talk to the person next to you on the bus or subway? Neither of you have anything better to do (except perhaps withdraw into the comfort of an iPod or a book), and really, you could tell them anything because you'll probably never see them again.

I was reminded of the time about a year and a half ago, when I bought a giant stuffed dog at the Salvation Army. This dog was about 4 or 5 feet tall, so I had to carry it around on my back. I had other errands to run, so I was walking around my neighborhood like this for a good 20 minutes. I even went into a fast food joint and ordered some lunch.

If you've ever wanted to make people happy, I highly recommend doing this. Literally, I'd say about 90% of everyone who noticed me got this giant smile on their face. I instantly made friends with the people behind the counter. I felt like I was making people's day.

How can something so simple make people happy? And if it's so simple, why don't we do or see things like this more often?

There's no reason every day can't be a little bit more like Halloween.

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