MY THREE HOUR BEST FRIEND
We were sitting in an opthalmologist’s office. We didn’t know each other; had never
seen each other before. She didn’t remind me of anyone I knew and didn’t even look
familiar. She probably didn’t shop at the same stores I shopped in, and didn’t send
her children to the same schools I did. This woman was a stranger.
She caught my eye and smiled. When I smiled back she said,
“An appointment at this office always means the sacrifice of half a day.”
“What’s the point of going through the pretense of making an appointment if they
never honor time?” I commiserated.
I wasn’t expecting to be chatting with a stranger in the waiting room. I preferred
discussing “real” issues that I cared about rather than having mindless, small talk. I
was happy to be left alone, look at my cell phone and catch up with the day’s
But my neighbor-in-waiting had other ideas about how to spend time while she
waited for her eyesight to be checked, examined and improved. Her idea was to tell
me her secrets. It must have been a cathartic experience for her, because she
launched right into some forbidden topics that can be told only to a total stranger.
One who doesn’t know you, who your friends are or who your family is. And
Someone you will never see again.
I fit that description perfectly.
Within a very short time she was describing her illicit affairs, the stresses therein
and the naughty, guilty escapes she seeks wherever she can. And what was my
reaction to these confessions?
Were they interesting? Did I care? Did I want her to continue? Was I drawn into her
story? Oh, yes I was!
She had the story teller’s natural gift of keeping her listeners spellbound and
fascinated. Nothing stopped her from talking, describing intimate details and
intriguing me in her compelling tone. I had no desire to tune out or interrupt her
Then, too soon, it was time to be seen. The nurse came into the waiting room, called
her name, and into the doctor’s office she followed. She abandoned me just at the
good part, leaving me to fill in the blanks. Soon thereafter my name was called and I
was led into a different examining room. And so, my exciting soap opera story teller
disappeared from my life as quickly as she had appeared.
I have heard that people sometimes feel safer and more comfortable telling their
most intimate secrets to total strangers than to a trusted friend. Perhaps you’ve
never had the experience of expressing your soul, your “authentic self” or revealed
your secrets to someone you didn’t know.
But I did.
It happened on a flight to Florida. I was traveling alone. At that time my life seemed
to be unfurling around me, and I felt unsettled and isolated. Assumptions I always
held to be true proved not to be true after all. People I once trusted turned out to be
untrustworthy. My foundations were crumbling, all was lost, and I was in a state of
The gentleman seated to my right must have picked up some of my agitated “vibes,”
because he gently started a conversation. Before I knew what I was saying I told him
my whole sad, troubled story. We spoke for the three hours it took to arrive at our
destination, from take-off to landing. He listened and responded by offering me
advice based on his own experience in a similar situation.
Although we exchanged secrets, there is one thing we never did exchange: our
names. I have no idea who he was and he doesn’t know me. But Mr. Anonymous
Traveler helped me that day more than anyone else in my real world could have.
I think of that time once in a while, and that kind, sensitive man. I hope that his life
came together as successfully as mine did.