On Talking to Strangers (Rome, pt. 1)

Track 3: With a Little Help From My Friends (The Beatles):

“Do you need anybody?”

I was not feeling up for conversation. I was actually hoping to fall back asleep, but my neighbor on this flight wanted to talk. And boy did we get into it, in a good way. We chatted about existential philosophy, religion, how romantic relationships make us compromise, the differences between Italian and Dutch culture, the difference in racism in The Netherlands and America, and--finally--how to eat like a real Italian.

His name was Chris.

We talked a lot about his girlfriend. They live 10 hours apart (Between Amsterdam and Milan), but they drive or fly to see each other every weekend. He talked about how she hates the weather in Amsterdam, and so--even though it is his home--he's decided they'll never vacation there again (because the weather means more to her than to him). He's a compassionate, thoughtful, forthcoming, good-humored man. We laughed together for about an hour.

As our plane landed at 0:30, we thanked each other for the conversation, and were about to part ways, until he asked where I was staying. I told him, and since he was familiar with the city, asked if he knew how I could best get to my Air BnB. In that conversation we found that there were no more trains headed in the city and an uber would cost 60€. I couldn't afford that, so I had in mind to wait five hours at the airport for the next train.

Chris caught me on the way toward baggage claim and asked if I had a plan. I told him I was hoping I could catch a cheaper uber outside of the airport, otherwise I'd stay put for the night. "Well, you can hop in my cab and we can get you closer at least," he offered. I was much obliged. His "cab" was the lovely Sicilian woman he had spoken of so fondly on the plane. When she put my address in her GPS, she said excitedly "You're so close!" Now, it's Daniela and Chris and I talking again--about Catholicism, and the differences between southern American, Dutch, and Italians when it comes to happiness and celebrating the little things in life. They drove me all the way to my host's home. I hugged Chris (even though he is obviously not a hugger) and kissed Daniella's cheeks (because, when in Rome). Then they wished me well. Humans are kinda wonderful sometimes. Life is unpredictable. The universe is so beautifully arranged.

The moral of the story is--at least for me--be kind to your neighbor. If I hadn't welcomed Chris in conversation. I wouldn't be laying in bed in Rome. I'd still be at the airport.