I mean, people I don't know. They talk to me. A lot. They always have.
It's often funny; when I was in college, I would inevitably end up, on my flights to and from home, sitting next to some middle-aged person who would either try to draw me out, and when that didn't work, simply settle for telling me his or her life story, or skip the drawing me out and dive right into life stories. One man told me all about growing up in Georgia in peanut farming country and how raw peanuts are just not that tasty. Another one kindly explained that i would have an epiphany like his and become a Republican soon enough.
On our recent drive across the country, kcatalyst observed that I'm fun to be with because of this apparent superpower of mine. This was just after our server at a restaurant had told us (while looking at me) about her recent car accident. Now, not to be mean or anything, but I really don't care. Not that I have ill wishes towards any of these people, but beyond the abstract sense I have of hoping for the best for each person in the world, I don't individually care about this one's strained relationship with her now-dead aunt or that one's inability to hold his liquor.
And, yet, they tell me about them. Why? I don't ask questions, though I do, typically, pay attention, at least for a while, once they start talking, because I find it too painful to be rude and ignore them (though sometimes it does come to that.) Sometimes it's just a few lines, but other times, it's many minutes (or, in the case of seatmates on planes and buses, longer).
I find it baffling, because I'm disinclined to talk about myself to a stranger. I finally got the hang of small talk through the discovery that most people are happy to talk about themselves if I'll simply go to the trouble of thinking up questions to ask. The challenge, then, is to think of questions, since, really, if this is someone I've never met and am unlikely ever to see again, why would I care enough to think of appropriate things to ask them? And, yet, it does pass the time.
Based on the reactions of other people who have been with me when this sort of thing happens, this is not normal. Or, at least, it doesn't seem to happen to them as much. So what gives?
Why do people do this? And what is it about me that causes them to strike up these little life summaries with me? Or am I just lucky? If you're someone who talks to strangers, why? And how do you select who you'll talk to? And about what? Is it just whatever's on your mind at the moment, or what?