"I had you pegged for the snootie type."
That's what a random bargoer visiting Tin Roof in the Epicentre said to me after we started talking about everything from where he'd live outside of the United States to social relations in Charlotte to the best hip hop artists on the scene. We laughed, because he was wearing pajama pants and already had been snubbed by many other patrons.
I was honest with him: I, too, had judged him before we spoke, but not because he was wearing his PJ's — after all, I've seen much more interesting things at Tin Roof and elsewhere. I had been trying to figure him out, because that's what I do.
As a frequent rider of Charlotte's public transportation, I've run into quite a few characters who will try and get my number while I'm engaged in a phone conversation, sometimes even when I'm on the phone with my mother. "Aerin, tell them to go away!" she will tell me as I reassure her the person is harmless. She's always meant what she says when it comes to "stranger danger."
This particular day I was cranking out my column while enjoying drinks. While taking a phone call I noticed PJ (a nickname I've given him in place of his true identity) and thought, "How long before this guy attempts to interrupt my flow." But he didn't. He kept to himself, went back inside to grab a drink and when I entered to grab another he casually asked, "Whatcha writing about?" When I told him I was writing about nightlife, he became intrigued. I thought, "This will be the perfect opportunity to learn more about the urban nightlife scene."
Little did I know, he'd school me on so much more.
After heading home, I began to think about the many social interactions I've had since I started writing for Creative Loafing. I've mentioned it before, but my RBF (resting b*tch face) could rival Rihanna at an awards show where she's not getting an award. And I'm thankful for liquid courage and the fact that I have to "show myself friendly" because I'm writing and meeting people. In fact, I can't tell you how many "conversations" the boyfriend's had with me about showing up when I say I'm going to show up when he knows I've been running my mouth somewhere with someone.
In previous columns I've shared some of the most hilarious things I've overheard while out at local bars and restaurants. Now I've upgraded to joining those conversations. Just a couple weeks ago, I went to Ink n Ivy to grab a couple drinks with my P.I.C. and a few people from work. After deciding I was ready to "break the seal," I raced to the women's bathroom where I heard two ladies having a conversation over the bathroom wall.
"Yo, it smells like a fish market in here," one of them said and laughed. It took us all a minute to realize how awkward that reality was before we all burst into laugher. *Insert long-drawn-out conversation while washing our hands about hygiene and how well each were wearing a clothing item. Typical.*
Then there was the random passerby on the street, who was nice enough to lend me and my coworkers a copy of his mixtape "Undisputed" — free. A nice guy who seems to be facing some challenges, he never hesitates to drum up a conversation about music and the need to discipline children. It's people like him that have a lot to say, and simply want someone to listen.
And you can't forget the hundreds of Ubers — yes, I Uber quite a lot — that are forced to pick me up in between destinations. Those are some of the longest, most intimate conversations I've had with strangers since I've been in Charlotte. Granted, part of that is because I want to get to know who's literally got my life in their hands. But the other part is the indescribable urge to tell someone what's on your mind in the late-night hours and most likely never see them again. I came across one of the most hilarious memes on just the other day that said, "If you've told at least one Uber driver your entire life story, you'll fit in just fine here." (credit: @shopelsafine) So don't act like I'm the only one.
Nevertheless, there's something to be said about meeting people you think you'd never be friends with or who make a difference in your life without even realizing it. From the musician trying to make a living on the street, to the hot guy at the bar who actually had a personality, who are some of the most memorable strangers you've met in the Q.C. and where'd you meet them?
Share it with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Psst, keep an eye out for Part 2. I've got some questions I'm going to ask every stranger I meet and share their responses with you!)