Talking to Strangers for Fun and Profit…

A note to those who may misunderstand my title, and think I work in radio (like my ex-husband and many of our friends)…unfortunately, radio is fun, but no longer very profitable (and some veterans may disagree on the “fun” part, too)!  I might have ended up doing radio news (I took Broadcast Journalism in college), but I chose not to enter that field.  The “talking to strangers” refers to face-to-face interaction with people I come into contact with in my daily life.

Maybe it’s because of my journalism training that I’ve always enjoyed chatting with people…or, it could be sheer nosiness!  Either way, it is an interesting way to pass the time, and I’ve learned a lot from some of my random interactions.  This practice horrifies my children, however…I can barely get them to acknowledge their school friends with more than a shy smile or a little wave!  When I took Hope to the after-hours clinic the other night, I was talking to a young father whose infant daughter was ill.  I tried to distract the baby from her fussiness by talking to her, and helped the man get her into the carseat.  After they left, Hope said, “Why do you have to talk to strangers?  You’re embarrassing me!”  When we got home, she informed Anna that I was “doing it again.” 

Yesterday, a good-looking guy in his mid-40’s came into the bookstore…tall and well-built, with prematurely grey hair (oops…I just drooled a little on my keyboard!).  As per my habit, I asked if it was his first visit (because I surely would have remembered if he’d been in before!)…he replied that it was, and offered that he was in town from Los Angeles.  We don’t get many people from California in Saint John, New Brunswick, except The Jolie, and the occasional cruise ship passenger, so my next question was “How did you end up here?” 

Tall Guy answered, “I’m a musician…we’ve got a gig here tonight.”

“Oh, which band are you in?” I asked.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when he replied, “The Goo Goo Dolls. ”  We’ve had celebrities in the store before: comedian Ron James, Vinyl Café host Stuart MacLean, and the Canadian rock band Alexisonfire, but to have somebody from an internationally-known rock group find our little store is pretty amazing (he found us on Google)!

I quickly picked myself up off the floor and responded that I had almost bought tickets for their show for Jim for Christmas, but he preferred to see the Classic Albums Live tribute to The Who that we went to last month.  Casually, Tall Guy said, “I can probably get you in.”

“Seriously?” I asked eagerly.  Those tickets were going for $49.50 each before service charges!

“Really!” he answered.  “Give him a call and see if he wants to go.”  So I did!  Jim was excited too!

Tall Guy spent a fair amount of time looking at our books, while I chewed his ear off.  I asked what he played…he responded modestly that he was “just the drummer.”  He told me about their shows in Newfoundland, and mentioned that his wife back in L.A. wasn’t very happy about him being gone on Valentine’s Day.  He would be back home in a couple of weeks though, and then off for a month.

My euphoria was disturbed when Tall Guy’s phone rang with a text message…he had to go back to the hotel and make an important phone call he’d forgotten about.  I gave him my card, and he promised to leave some tickets in my name at the door.  I got Tall Guy to sign our guest book, and took his money for the book he bought (World War I history)…he didn’t even make it into the room with the art, music, and literature…I’m hoping he might order more books from our website!

Our celebrity's signature...

After he was gone, I Googled Mike, because I couldn’t read his last name (Malinin)…in the course of my stalking research, I also found out that Mike was a marathon runner.  How cool is that?  A drummer for a rock band and a runner!

Goo Goo Dolls watch as guy from Virgin Records cuts a ribbon...Mike is the hunk on the left...(photo from


Showtime was 7:30 p.m.  Despite our best efforts, Jim and I didn’t make it to the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre until 7:15.  The line for General Admission snaked out into the neighbouring mall.  Most of the people waiting were half our ages.  Luckily, the queue moved quickly, and soon we saw a special table at the door where a woman had a box full of envelopes.  I left Jim to hold our place and hurried over to her.  “I’m Wendy M.,” I said.  “Mike the drummer left me a couple of tickets.”  The woman shuffled through a pile of white envelopes and pulled one out with my name on it.  She opened it, and discovered two triangular Goo Goo Dolls sticker passes with “2/14” and “A.S.” written on them in permanent marker.  I was excited, because I surmised that “A.S.” stood for “After Show.”  The woman told us to just go on in and take our seats…we did, after carefully applying the stickers to our chests (we had a little trouble freeing them from the backing paper…I think they were “boomerproof” stickers). 

Our passes...

The opening band, Crash Parallel, was a group of young Canadian guys based in Toronto.  They could sing; they could play; and they were suitably enthusiastic.  I particularly enjoyed their cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (Genesis was one of the first bands I ever saw live, back in 1981).  During the intermission, we chatted with two other couples from our generation who were seated near us (one fellow worked in Emergency at the hospital, and has put multiple casts/splints on my girls!).  Yes, children…I was talking to strangers again!

Jim took this shot with his phone during the show...despite my demonic grin, I did not just consume a small child...

Finally, the Goo Goo Dolls took the stage.  Most of their material was new to me…in their heyday in the late-90’s, I had already stopped listening to mainstream radio.  The youngsters at the show felt the need to stand in front of the stage, so we spent the rest of the time on our feet (which was tough on my almost 50-year-old body!).  My favourite Goo Goo Dolls song is Iris:

After the show, we filed out into the lobby…we walked around and asked several people whether they knew what the “A.S.” meant on our passes.  No one did (not even the burly security guy with the headset), and it didn’t appear that there was an “after show.”

We went home…I’ve decided that “A.S.” stands for “Amiable Stranger.”  Thanks, Mike, for the tickets!  Sometimes it pays to talk to strangers!


Filed under family, friends, music, rants, satire, self-discovery

63 responses to “Talking to Strangers for Fun and Profit…

  1. I am completely impressed by this great story. And I love that A.S. can be anything you want it to be. How about “Adorable Storeowner?”

  2. What fun!! Guess it pays off big time to be an “amiable stranger”

    • It’s true, Melissa…it’s not the first time it’s happened either…I once scored box seats to a local theatre production from a lady I talked to on the city bus (we were bus acquaintances). Thanks for reading! Wendy

  3. Wow! Goo Goo Dolls! Really?!!! How exciting! Yay for you!

  4. How cool is THAT?! As usual, you are my hero 🙂

  5. Oh how fun Wendy! My kids just HATE when I talk to strangers. I’m curious, I love to know where people are from and what it is like there and so much more….Never met any celebs but I can always hope.

  6. Yay! Wendy, I love it! Scoring free tickets is great anytime, but the fact you got to see a band you and Jim both enjoy makes it priceless.

    (P.S. – Love the photo. You two are adorable!)

    What a great story!

  7. duke1959

    That is something that this generation misses out on. Not in the kind of music they listen too but their interactions with others. How often do you see young people with their heads down looking at one of their gadgets when a member of the opposite sex walks by. Then they complain that they can never meet anyone. How may simple hello’s have lead to life long realtionships? The number is to big to even think about.

  8. How fun was that! I used to tease my mom that she knew everyone. Sit her on a plane, she’d find someone she curled against. Stand her in line at the Supermarket, and she’d find someone who played ball against her dad.

    Now I do the same. I suspect your children will too, someday!

  9. This is a great post and a great story! Love the photos. aslo! A book store must be a great place to fish for blog-worthy material. This was surely one of those!
    Hugs from Haiti,

  10. Oh, Wendy – what a divine story! I got so excited reading this – that’s such a wonderful thing to happen. I hope your children learn the value of talking to strangers – see what happens!

    We are SO alike and our children sound alike too – my sons sigh and sob and raise their eyebrows at me. They say, “You don’t HAVE to speak to everyone you meet, Mom. Force yourself not to!” It must be our July genes or something?

    Premature grey is a weakness for me too!
    Sunshine xx

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Sunshine…I don’t understand people who aren’t friendly…my dad thinks that talking to people after greeting them when they come into the store is “bothering” them. Yup…there’s something about grey hair on a guy in his 40s…yummy! Hugs, Wendy

  11. wowser! My kids will be super jealous! My husband, too…
    they really like the goo goo dolls!

    what a neat treat–and glad you shared it with us!

    • Thanks, Jane…I called Kaylee to tell her…she was green! She wins stuff online all the time…I didn’t feel that sorry for her! Mike and your hubby have the same haircut! Good-looking fellas! Hugs, Wendy

  12. Pingback: Tweets that mention Talking to Strangers for Fun and Profit… « Herding Cats in Hammond River --

  13. Bella Bartolo

    To the woman who scored tix to see the Goo’s in Canada….Your just another lucky person who sees the Beauty of this Band…there are a Lot of us in your generation who adore them…and were happy you got to experience Something for the Rest of Us….Because you talked to a now know …what the Rest of Us experience…and Bliss is just one word to describe the Goo Goo Dolls….from the 80’s-90’s and Now…Mike , Johnny, Robby, Korel, and Brad…are Awesome guys, whom happen to make Great Music !!!

  14. Nicole

    Very cool story. I’m a long time fan of this band and I am so proud every time I hear about them being nice normal good people. Thank you for sharing!

  15. That is the coolest story I’ve read in a long time, Wendy!

    I also like the guy’s professionalism. He actually made sure you got in. That’s so cool.

    • Thanks, Todd…I was kind of worried myself about whether we would get in or not, but my name was on a typed list when I got there, and they ticked off that I’d picked up the passes…very organized! Wendy

  16. Maureen Hayes

    GGGGrrrreat Story!!!!!
    From one embarrassing mom to another ‘It pays to talk to strangers and sometimes you become great friends.
    Keep up the great writing

  17. Wow, Wendy, that’s incredible. What a great Valentine’s Day gift. How exciting to meet the drummer of the Goo Goo Dolls! I’ve always thought drummers were the coolest band members.

    I love striking up conversations with strangers as well. Everyone has a story to tell and you just never know what you will learn or who you will meet.



  18. So awesome! That’s a great surprise visitor.

  19. Wendy,
    Oh, I just cannot stand it! I am so happy for you. It always pays to be nice doesn’t it? He was very considerate was he not! What a day for you both. WooHoo! I can live vicariously through you. A nice memory…..

  20. N B

    Looks like there are many advantages to being friendly. Definitely cool to be able to go to a concert for nothing!!! Did your chilluns figure out that it pays to talk to people? Or do they still roll their eyes?

    Wonderful story.

  21. That kind of thing would never happen to me. I am opening a store.

  22. Wendy, what a cool story! I talk to strangers too..maybe a little too much. But, look at the result for you! How cool is that. Sounds like you had a great time. 🙂

  23. Cool Beans! I disappear one day due to work and look at the great story I miss. You are hip Miss Wendy. I have a smattering of Goo Goo Dolls on my computer. One of their songs was actually playing the first time I was wrangled into singing karaoke a long time ago. Neato.

    • It was pretty neat, Clay! I’m reconsidering doing Twitter too…my daughter Tweeted this post, and it ended up on a Goo Goo Dolls forum! I had double the hits I normally do yesterday…kinda like a mini-Freshly Pressed! I’m enjoying the surge in traffic, although I don’t think I’ll concentrate on pop culture for my blog…don’t think I’m hip enough for that! Wendy

  24. Bella Bartolo

    Wow….what a response on your story….If you want to follow more….look into innermachine on google…a paid goo site…and you get to follow them , there rehearsals and much much more. Its a great way to stay connected…and win Meet and Greets… I would not not have it….lol…Peace!

  25. What a great story! He really was very cool 😀 I like your interpretation of AS! Glad you & Jim had a wonderful night out 🙂

    Hugs, H.

  26. Oh how fantastic! 😀

    On a completely different subject.. you’ve seen Genesis?! Wow I am envious ( and not only that you saw them when it was Peter Gabriel in the band and not Phil Colins.. )

    Nothing wrong with talking to strangers.. it’s in our nature to be inquisitive, if we didn’t we wouldn’t meet new exciting people!

    • Glad you enjoyed the story, egills…”seen Genesis” is probably not quite accurate…I was with 40,000 other people in the cheap seats at a very large stadium! The band members were very tiny dots in the distance. I could hear them fairly well! It was 1981, so Peter Gabriel was already gone…I think most people just naturally think of Genesis when Peter’s name is mentioned! Wendy

  27. Wow, Wendy that is such a great story. What a thrill!!! You have to start taking your camera to the store with you. You might get some terrific shots in… I’m excited just reading about it. Can’t imagine how you feel!

    • Thanks, Laura…it was pretty exciting! We actually have a camera at the store (we photograph the books for the online listings), but I didn’t want to hold Mike up where he had to leave quickly! Wendy

  28. Fantastic story, Wendy! So, all the coolest people in the world really are wandering about in book stores. I always knew it.

  29. At the risk of sounding like an idiot or a high school girl with poor vocabulary, this is beyond AWESOME!

    I talk to strangers all the time. My kids are embarrassed by it too. I was thinking I should stop. But now I am going to do it more!

  30. I’ve always been friendly, Lin…embarrassing my kids is a bonus!

    Glad you liked the piece!


  31. Anjaan

    some interesting things you have been doing there mam..the feel good articles..i have made some friends too over Omegle:) happy blogging:)

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