Just a week ago, my publication class asked us to try engaging in a conversation with a stranger. Right when I was still contemplating how would someone as socially awkward as me get through this task, the fire alarm of my dorm suddenly went off. After countless times of experiencing this same issue with the sensitive fire alarm here, I was really chill and went out my room calmly. This was when I saw a girl coming out from the room right next to mine with her hands covering her ears and a amused expression on her face. Very naturally we both made a comment about how loud the fire alarm was and looked around to see if anyone else was there. I continued the conversation by saying how the fire alarm always go off here and she agreed. Since the noise was really intolerable, she suggested that we should just go down. After stepping out of our dorm, the noise was finally lowered to a level that I could engage a conversation with her. Though I only asked her about her major and talked about what year we’re at before the alarm got fixed, this small incident was how I started a conversation with the stranger that lives right next to me.
Thanks to the horrendously loud alarm that kept beeping, the noise broke through the barrier between our dormitory walls and we had an instant connection of figuring out what to do even though we both didn’t know each other’s names at that time. I can now understand why the author of When Strangers Meet thinks talking to strangers helps her connect to her block and her neighborhood as I really felt closer with the community I live in after meeting and talking to the one living next to me face-to-face. Although he conversation I had with her was not long enough that I’d say I know this person well living next to me, I would consider someone known if I know their names, recognize how they look, and know a few pieces of personal information about them. Now that I at least know who is living next to me, I would smile and nod whenever I see her around.
Personally I think the biggest difference talking to someone face-to-face in real life instead of online is being able to see their immediate reactions, which feels more genuine than the delayed replies we think through before hitting send online. I’m glad that this fire alarm incident gave us the chance to learn a bit about each other before separately returning back to our own room again like any other day and helped me befriend this nice and sweet stranger that lives right next to me.