Opening Up!

By Noah Graff

Yesterday evening my wife, Stephanie, and I stopped to get gas. As I fueled up, a man named Danny, on the other side of the pumps fueling his own car, struck up a conversation with me. You know that special breed of people who walk into a room, almost always smiling, beaming their positive energy onto everyone? Danny is one of those guys.

He commented to me about the crazy high gas prices in Illinois, currently in the $3.30 per gallon range. I told him about the gas prices in California, where I was last week, which are over $4.00. I was tired after a long day of work, but suddenly I was uplifted. We both commented how nice it was to be chatting with a complete stranger on a sunny summer day without wearing annoying face masks, and without concern about germs or concern that the other person would be afraid of our own germs.

Danny introduced himself and seemed like he was starting to put out his hand. But I extended my elbow and bumped his—now the modern introductory gesture. We laughed about how stupid handshakes really are. I remarked that the custom of bowing in Asia makes so much more sense, and no wonder Italy had had trouble containing the virus in a culture where it’s normal to greet people with multiple kisses on the cheeks!

Noah and Danny Meeting at the Pump

Pre-Covid-19, this would have been a fairly typical interaction for me. I love talking to strangers. I completed a personal goal of meeting at least one new person every day from May 19, 2018, to May 19, 2019. Meeting strangers is something that makes my life interesting and serendipitous. It also makes the world feel less isolated. Two strangers meeting can be like nuclear fusion—their combined energy becomes greater than their sum.

Today Chicago officially “opens up!” Soon after this blog is published, I am closing up the laptop and meeting up with a customer visiting from Japan. I’m taking him to Wrigley Field for the first Cubs home game of the season with seating at full capacity.

Good possibility I’m going to talk to some more strangers.

Questions: Do you like talking to strangers?

Are handshakes stupid? Will you switch to a new type of greeting?

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8 thoughts on “Opening Up!

  1. Jim

    My wife especially enjoys talking to people we have not met before. It could be in the grocery store, gas station, on a walk, everywhere. Our kids think she’s crazy because she will strike up a conversation with people anywhere she goes. She has a great way of putting people at ease. I think it’s one of the main things that attracted me to her. I am shaking hands again and kissing my friends and I love it. People are not meant to be isolated. We need to be able greet people in a warm way and comfort those that are suffering. As for gas prices; they’re directly related to the demagogue that was elected president.

  2. Dan Ewing

    I enjoy chatting with strangers as well. It must be the salesman in me after all these 40 years in the business.
    I’m a big fan of the fist bump. Much easier to do than the elbow thing and it doesn’t spread germs like a handshake.
    Lastly, why do people think that the president is responsible for the price of gas?
    Blows my mind.

    1. Gordon Erickson

      Fist bumps are fast and efficient for sure. I plan to keep using them, though a handshake with a look in the eye has a certain connection that is hard to replace. Meeting people every day is great because you can remember everyone’s name. Going to a show tends to be overwhelming, and at the end of the day I am usually glad I collected some business cards.

      The reason we all blame the president is simple. During 2019, we were producing more oil than we could use and actually exporting oil. Gas was 1.85 a gallon if you could live on regular. With the stroke of a pen, that changed to mostly importing again, (from the middle east no less) and the price rose commensurately and immediately. Go to Colorado where the pumps were running and people were all employed and drilling and fracking away if you want to hear it from the horses mouth. All done, all unemployed, all collecting at least some fraction of what they were making from government unemployment but no longer enjoying either making enough to save for retirement or that special feeling of having earned it themselves. The hopeless feeling of being a ward of the state is coming from everyone’s mouth again, but it was good for a while. Had it not been for that pen stroke, things might be different, and no one would be blaming the president for it.

    2. Jim

      If you asked that question in Canada they would wonder where you have been hiding out. Stopping the pipeline project has cost thousands of jobs and billions of dollars

  3. Keith Garrison

    I still like handshakes, but when someone is still wearing a mask I “bump” unles they put their hand out. I too like meeting new people but had not set a goal. Keep it up, love your blogs and ideas.
    With best regards,

    1. Noah Graff

      Thanks Keith and everyone else for the thoughtful comments! Means so much to me. Getting to connect on the phone, in person and like this is one of the best things in life!

  4. Gary

    Agree completely. Nice to meet someone new, and from different backgrounds.

    Not sure why people need to interject political comments in reply to the subject you are writing about.

    I think it best to leave politics out considering who occupied the White House the previous four years.

    1. Noah

      Thank you Gary!

      Baseball game was one of the best ones I’ve every been to by the way! They won! And I did talk to some folks sitting behind me.

      People need to take a breath about politics. Enjoy the good economy, while they are at it.


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