There’s a famous scene in the movie Mommie Dearest in which Joan Crawford — played to campy perfection by Faye Dunaway — lashes out at her adopted daughter, Christina. “Why can’t you give me the respect that I’m entitled to?” she demands. “Why can’t you treat me like I would be treated by any stranger on the street?” she adds angrily.
“Because I am not one of your fans!” spits Christina, triggering a rather extreme reaction from her manic mama.
I found myself thinking about that exchange this morning after getting off the bus that I take every few days. The driver, whose name I don’t know, is one of the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet. Over the past few months since first he took over the route from his predecessor — who possessed a demeanor that could be described as unpleasant on his best days and if you were feeling particularly generous — the new driver and I have bonded, for lack of a better word. I genuinely enjoy seeing his smiling face, and we talk about one another’s lives in a manner that would suggest... well, that we should at least know one another’s names.
We often warn our children about “stranger danger”, making it clear that they should not engage with people they don’t know. But as adults, the encounters we have with strangers are sometimes the most pleasant moments of our day. The bartender who isn’t our friend, yet we see often enough that they know what we drink. The woman whose register we seek out at the grocery store because we always enjoy her personality. The doorman stationed at the entrance to a friend’s apartment building whom you visit often enough that they wave you on through.
Next time you deal with that familiar stranger, be grateful that you’ve got them around. Or, heck, ask them their name. I know I plan to ask my bus driver tomorrow!