In September, 2014, I returned from Europe on the QM2.
While working out in the gym I noticed that a man lifting weights next to me was covered head-to-toe in tattoos.
I said, “Great tats,” and asked if I could look at them. He said, “Sure” and for perhaps 15 minutes he showed them to me and explained what each meant.
I asked him what he did and he said he was a drummer. After gigging in Europe he was returning to the States and liked traveling by ship because the rooms were so sound-proof that he could practice without disturbing neighbors.
After he excusing himself he left for dinner. Another man who had been watching us said this to me, “I’m the drummer in the ship’s orchestra and that man is my hero. Do you know who he is?”
I said that I did not, and he said that I’d been talking to Travis Barker, whom he considers the greatest drummer who ever lived.
When I got home I looked up Travis on Wikipedia and was very impressed by his accomplishments. I also learned that another reason he preferred ships is because from childhood he was deathly afraid of flying, imagining he’d die in a crash one day. And then, on September 19, 2008 he was only one of two survivors of a plane crash.
The ship’s drummer had been stalking Travis and hadn’t yet worked up the courage to speak to him. I too had once been deathly afraid of speaking to strangers but in 1970, at age 18, I’d begun hitch-hiking. Talking to strangers comes with the territory and the unwritten contract of the road is that while the ride might be free you have to be more interesting than the radio.
One of my proudest moments as a parent came decades ago when we asked our son in the first grade what had happened in school that day.
He said, “A policeman talked to us, but he’s stupid.” We asked how so, and he said, “The policeman said drugs are bad and we shouldn’t talk to strangers. He’s stupid because some drugs are good and everyone is a stranger until you talk to them.”
I’m reminded of this story because yesterday my now-adult son sent me a link to a promotional video for a new show where Sasha Baron Cohen tricks pro-gun lobbyists (and the congressmen they keep in their pocket) to show their true colors by convincing them to support a program to give automatic weapons to toddlers.
If you are charged with raising toddlers into adulthood (or training lobbyists and congressmen to be humans) then I offer these three rules regarding talking to strangers:
- Talk to strangers because everyone is a stranger until you talk to them.
- Don’t be an idiot.
- Don’t be evil.
You might think that not being an idiot and not being evil are good rules that can be assumed without saying.
But, apparently I’m wrong.
As evidence, consider watching the promotional video for Showtime’s new show.
And while you do, look for the reference to Blink 182.