We're uncomfortable with each other. We sit elbow to elbow and make great effort to not make eye contact. If we do dare look at the person next to us, we do so with utmost stealth, in terror of getting caught looking. We dare not speak to the strangers next to us because that might be rude, or we might unleash a bore, a religious zealot, or someone otherwise totally unlike us.
Flying coach class across America, our knees often touch but our lives never intersect.
I don't have this difficulty with strangers in New Orleans. At the grocery, in restaurants, going about my daily business, I talk to people. And they seem to not mind it from what I can tell.
We may have never met, but we have so much in common. New Orleans is a small town and we're all connected in crime, weather, celebrations and politics. Because New Orleans has its own culture, its own unique food, holidays and traditions, we have shared experiences like no other city in America I know of.
At the seminar I attended in Seattle this week, I was seated at a table surrounded by complete strangers. People I've never met, worked with, or even known existed before we sat next to each other that first day. But the connections were easy. The introductions were natural and friendly.
Even though we had never met, we knew before a word was spoken that we had common interests. We all worked for the Federal government. We were all at a point in our careers that we were all participating in the same seminar.
That's all it takes--one mutually recognized commonality.
We have that in New Orleans. Nobody is ever really a stranger here. It's one of the reasons I love coming home.