Friday, September 17th, 2010

Friday Writing Prompt – Have a Conversation with a Stranger

Woman Picking at Acne - Image Courtesy of spent some time at the dermatologist’s office today.

While I waited for my turn, I read my latest acquired book about writing and scribbled some notes.

After a while, a woman came out of the doctor’s office wearing a Dallas Cowboys football jersey, and hoots erupted around the waiting room.

This is Raven’s country, though there was a single Redskin’s fan and one lone “L.A. Rams” holdout – an older gentleman – in the waiting room, who stated that he was born and raised in L.A. County, but had been transplanted to Maryland some time ago.

There was a round of forgiveness once the woman spoke in a soft, Texas accent, about rooting for her home team.

After she left, the hum in the waiting room quieted, and I returned to my book. But a few moments later, a gentleman seated two seats away, turned to me and said, “You’re sure giving that book what for.”

I demurred, and explained that I was just taking a few notes. I showed him the book at his request, and then he’d asked me if I’d ever written anything. (That’s when I pulled out my handy-dandy bookmark listing some of the stuff I’ve published and handed it to him.) He told me he’d written a book, but just as quickly told me it had never been published. When I asked him why, he said:

“The war got in the way.”

And that’s when the conversation got really interesting.

He told me that when he was asked what kind of job he could do, he told his commanding officer that he drove trucks. So his CO made him a truck driver…of ammo trucks. That didn’t suit him at all, he said. (So, matter of fact, this far removed from the war!) And he’d tried to get away from doing it as fast as he could. His lucky break came when the chaplain’s assistant died (got blown up stepping on a landmine while hunting for deer) and he got to be the chaplain’s assistant.

What an awesome story! If I hadn’t needed to get to work, I would have stayed and talked after my appointment. What a life. I hope he’s written this down for his grandchildren.

Here’s Your Prompt:    Strike up a conversation with a stranger in a public place. (Repeating: in a public place.) Make it a good public place… not the post office (unless there are huge lines) or some other location where you’ll only meet people in passing. Choose somewhere where you’ll have time to pass a few moments. Ask a leading (polite) question, or compliment someone…anything to start the conversation. And then…listen.

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet as great a person as I did. (If not, you can always try again.)

Once you’ve chatted, take that conversation home and write about it. Fictionalize it, journal it, or write a biographical sketch.

4 comments to Friday Writing Prompt – Have a Conversation with a Stranger

  • My family and I took our two dogs to the regional dog park, where we met this elderly couple with their two dogs – Dallas, a 14-year-old dalmation, and Buffy, a 16-year-old large white poodle. My daughter and the gentleman discussed poodle sizes while his wife, who may have suffered a stroke and was… untroubled by adult situations… rode her folding bicycle around the outside of the park area. She would make a lap around the fenced-in yard and park the bike before carefully making her way back to where we sat on the picnic table (several other dog owners and my family), proclaiming she was “tired”. After a few minutes rest, she’d head back out for another lap. We all recognized that she was ‘different’, but it just didn’t seem to matter enough to bring up in conversation and we enjoyed their company until the dogs were ready to go.

  • Hi Carl! This is great. Did you write about the conversation?

  • Lqiofet

    I think you have great points in this post

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