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Hello to You Too

Joshua Passman

Hello!I have been riding the Metro North commuter train to and from New York City for years; Blackberry in one hand, newspaper in the other (and somehow balancing a cup of coffee at the same time). I probably spend about 70 minutes a day on the train.  Over the past ten years, I estimate I have spent at least 2,000 hours, or 116 days, sitting on the train.

This week, for the first time in those 100+ days, someone proactively said 'hello' and introduced himself.  My initial reaction was one of shock.  Nobody had ever done this before.  Did this person want something?  Was he campaigning or fund raising?  Was he trying to sell me a timeshare in Cancun?  Did he need money to pay the conductor?  The answer to all of the above is no.  This nice guy was simply being friendly and striking up a conversation.

I must admit that I have either had my head in a newspaper, magazine or book, or was tapping away on my Blackberry, for most of my time on the train the last ten years.  While I have chatted plenty with people I know on the train, I don't recall the last time I randomly said 'hello' to someone and tried to strike up a conversation.

Today, it’s so easy for people to find reasons not to reach out to others in places like the train.  There are TV screens in elevators.  There is free TV, movies and music on many airplanes.  Wi-fi is offered on buses and Amtrak.  All of this has made the art of casual conversation somewhat of a lost art.

This simple act by a fellow commuter of saying 'hello' reminded me that it’s OK to put down the paper, tune out the free movies, and shut down the laptop when confined in tight places surrounded by strangers.  Since this first encounter with this person on the train, we have chatted a few times.  I've learned that he grew up about 10 minutes from me, knows some of the same people I know, and also ridiculously picked Pitt to make the Final Four.  I guess you can say I have a new friend.  Ten years on the train and one new friend.  This simple act of kindness, curiosity, or whatever you want to call it, has opened my eyes to the power of a simple 'hello.' Next time you're in the elevator or on a crowded bus, give it a shot.  You may make a new friend, business contact or customer.  All with one short, simple word. CJP

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