There is something about me that makes strangers talk to me. I can be just about anywhere, minding my own business, not making eye contact with anyone, when, all of a sudden, someone strikes up a conversation with me. I recently had lunch with a client and, when we were leaving the restaurant and walking to the parking lot, a man who was driving near us slammed on his brakes, bringing his car to a screeching halt, before opening his car’s window and yelling to me, “I just had to stop and tell you how much I love your outfit!”. My client said, “Yes, I like it too and she just happens to be a nice person as well as a stylish dresser.” This is just one example of something that happens to me on a regular basis. I have been accosted in the supposedly aloof New York City on numerous occasions, including by people riding in the same subway car as me, by strangers who just want to make small talk. I have been approached by none other than Santa Claus all over the world, including a particularly memorable experience in Sydney, Australia. Wherever I go, from small towns to big cities, in places where people usually don’t talk to one another, such as elevators, airport waiting areas, and ladies’ restrooms, people talk to me, then they talk to me some more. I am always polite, but I keep these people at arm’s length, just in case their intentions are impure. I was removed from the line at the Statue of Liberty by security guards, who, as it turned out, wanted my autograph, as well as a friendly chat. (I have been approached countless times by people asking, “Has anyone ever told you that you look exactly like Meryl Streep?”.) So far, I have never had any negative experiences with anyone who has approached me for a brief exchange of pleasantries. My late mother used to tease me that she had to allow extra time to go places with me because of the number of people who want to speak with me. David is used to it, after all these years, but it still surprises me when it happens!
I’ve seen this happen, including the Santa incident in Sydney. He had with him Mrs. Santa, and a human size Christmas tree, but it was the “Bad Santa” who paused in greeting people in the market we were visiting to make suggestive comments to Melissa. Another incident I will never forget was a long time ago on a NY subway train out to Coney Island when another rider started trying to talk to various people before focusing on Melissa. He was “off” in some way and most people were trying to avoid him, as we were, but he was persistent and even started talking about “I could have a bomb” in my bag; no one even looked up. We did, perhaps out of concern in case he did have something in the bag, but ultimately, he appeared to be harmless, just crazy. Most people go through life looking away from others in public. Melissa often makes eye contact and, perhaps, that is why people speak with her. She observes others intently, and that is her day job – watching mock jurors, watching potential trial jurors, but in other environments she is also observant of people. We were walking in a park one day and observed what we are convinced would have been a mugging, but between her focus on the eyes of the would be perpetrator, and my observation of his hands and other actions, we apparently scared him off – to the never knowing benefit of the potential mugging targets walking in front of him. Whether it is her observations of people, or some other characteristic that draws their attention and speaking, I don’t know. It just happens again and again.