I constantly and always have to remind myself to be less hostile towards strangers.
Whenever I meet people I start hoping for the best but am expecting the worst. So today’s daily prompt gives me the chance to remind myself that strangers do not always become friends, but aren’t always scary either.
The day I met Susan had been, quite frankly, horrible. In the middle of August of 2008, I was fifteen or so back then, I started my high school exchange semester in the US. I mind you, I was mid-puberty, dearly in love with another exchange student (whom I wound up dating for a few years after that, fun fact), about 8000 miles away from everyone I knew and stranded at the New York/ Newark airport. All flights had been cancelled due to a huge storm, my host family was waiting for me somewhere in Knoxville and I was all alone, bawling my eyes out because not even the Taco Bell guy understood my English (neither was I understanding him, for that matter). Being stranded for fourteen hours at a huge airport on a different continent where you are not even capable of buying a damn taco puts some perspective on things, I suppose. After having failed with Taco Bell but being starving due to 24 hours of traveling I scrambled up what was left of my dignity and tried to buy some sweets out of a press shop. Susan was in line behind me. When it was my turn she just mumbled “I got this.” and payed the very unfriendly clerk (Oh, New York). We started talking (alas, she started talking and I sobbed along), she and her family turned out to be the only other passengers on my connection flight. She distracted me, borrowed me her phone (because European phones have a tendency not to work in the US; why did no one warn me?) and called my host family for me. When we finally arrived in Knoxville, she made sure I found the people I needed to find, went and grabbed my suitcase and wished me good luck.
Susan wrote me a few e-mails after that, but we never particularly kept in touch. Just a few months ago I let her know how much this still means to me. No heroic deeds, nothing, but her distraction and affection was the only thing I ever needed in that moment.
By now, English feels like my native tongue. But for the love of god, I still can’t understand New York people. No tacos for me.