Talking to Strangers
A stranger I talked to this week was an SFU student named Aiya. I did not first approach her in real life, but through email.
My co-worker had forwarded me an email, and being the organized person I am, I ignored it for three days. When I finally got around to opening it, I kicked myself in the ass for not doing so sooner. The original email was from a girl named Aiya who was interested in proofreading. If her interest was sincere, she would work under me and be something of an unpaid intern. I was overjoyed.
My first email to her was formal and polite. I asked her if she was serious about being a volunteer proofreader. Emphasis there because it’s the only unpaid position at the newspaper, and since when do people squint at pages, searching for misplaced commas, for free? She replied back quickly (despite it being midnight) and said, “Being able to prevent pesky typos from getting to the final print will make my day.” Who was this girl? And why did she remind me so much of myself from just a year ago, in the same position? Probably because I too was a keener. Egad.
Anyway, we had a bit more back-and-forth through emails. I sent her a simple proofreading test and the paper’s style guide and told her (politely) to knock herself out. She did, and I was satisfied. I invited her to come visit the office on Friday, the paper’s production day.
At this point, I didn’t consider Aiya known. I considered her as a voice behind a screen that made me somewhat nostalgic for my painfully unpaid proofreader days. And yet, she was known. The second I saw the forwarded email in my inbox and read the name ‘Aiya’, I knew her as a real human being who was…somewhere. But her physical and more characteristic form remained unknown to me, at least until Friday.
On Friday, I met Aiya for the first time face-to-face. It’s strange because as soon as I saw her enter the office, I knew who she was. Why? Because she looked just like me from two years ago. Talk about scary. Her posture, her hair, her eagerness, they were all me.
Except she was more outgoing, and she brought chocolate.
Now I definitely “knew” her, right? Wrong. I still considered her a complete stranger, even as I began to chat with her and showed her the proofreading ropes. She was still a stranger to me when we finally finished the paper and I sent her home, nine hours later. Maybe she’ll always be a stranger to me.
I mean, I like Aiya just fine, and I’m sure I’ll get to know her better throughout this semester. But will she, or any other person in my life including myself, stop being strangers? Will I ever know someone well enough that they’ll cease being “strange” to me? I doubt it.