I think I have one of those friendly faces. You know, the kind of face that strangers want to talk to.
Take last week, for example: I had a meeting in Boston and split an Uber back to the north side of the river with a colleague. On the way to her house, we chatted in the backseat about our project, family, her cooking class. Then she exited the car, and I gave the driver my address. It would take 10-15 minutes to get to my house, depending on traffic.
During those 10-15 minutes, I learned my driver, Carmeleau, was from Haiti. He had three children, two boys and a girl, and a baby on the way. He owned the Prius he was driving, plus a tow truck and a sports car. He made five figures a month driving for Uber. He showed me pictures of his kids and his cars on his phone at a stoplight. When I mentioned that I also had a toddler, he asked me questions about my son, and I told him about my Haitian students and how I never remembered any of the words they taught me. When we pulled up to my building, he taught me how to say goodbye in Haitian Creole, laughing that I needed to make sure I remembered it!
I will probably never see Carmeleau again, but I lost nothing by being friendly. By listening, by engaging in conversation, by talking to someone different than me — if anything, in that brief moment I gained a temporary friend. I saw humanity. I connected.
What would happen if more people opened up and accepted “friendly”?