Photo: Keith Chastain
On tour with the Commemorative Air Force Airbase Arizona’s B-25 WWII bomber plane, I talk to lots of strangers. As the ride coordinator (yes, the plane still flies, and yes, we do sell rides on it), it’s part of my job. Despite being a natural introvert, I find the experience exhilarating.
People come up and ask all kinds of questions. I don’t have all of the answers, but I’m able to point individuals to fellow volunteers who do have the answers. Together, we make a great team.
I don’t feel nervous to talk to these strangers, nor worried when I can’t answer their questions. Similarly, folks aren’t afraid to ask the queries on their minds. It’s a give-give relationship. I typically don’t initiate a lot of conversations except to say hi and to see if I can help with anything. People come to see a true wonder, one of only about 30 B-25s still flying today — out of 10,000 that were built in the ’40s.
Contrast that with meeting strangers in an elevator. Everyone clams up and stares at the door, waiting for their turn to exit. As part of tour, we volunteers wear uniform shirts that advertise our organization, as well as our names. It’s a little hard to hide in that situation. And it actually serves as a conversation starter in elevators. People are curious and want to know more.
Because we’re on tour for two weeks at a time and wear basically the same thing every day (uniforms), the need to do laundry quickly arises. While at a laundromat to wash that need away, I thought I could advertise for our organization and try to sell some rides on our plane. When I entered the establishment, however, I wanted to hide and blend in, not draw attention to myself. But my name on my shirt made me a bit conspicuous and confounded that desire.
In spite of my introverted tendencies, no one seemed interested in me or my shirt. In fact, no one even talked to me. And I was fine with that.
What’s different between greeting strangers at our airplane and greeting them in an elevator or at a laundromat? I guess I’m more in my comfort zone at the airplane. I have an assigned job and know what’s expected of me. At the laundromat, I have a different job: to do my laundry as a civilian like all of the other civilians there. I’m out of my element of washing my clothes in the comfort of my home. And in an elevator, well, that’s even more different altogether.
Regardless of the situation, though, strangers are people and deserve to be treated as such.
Christian, wife, mother of 5, breast cancer survivor, marathon finisher, writer and editor, author of "Help! I'm a Science Project"