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Sign In Stranger

The FAA Air Traffic Control Tower in operation...

Why are they behind dark glass? Because it would freak us out to know who they are (Image via Wikipedia)

Over the past few years, I have developed the idea that there are certain things that are better done by strangers. I’ll go so far as to say that despite the fact that we teach children to stay away from strangers for good reason, strangers play significant roles in our lives. Let me explain.

A few years ago I flew on an airline that had as one of the options available on its audio entertainment system, a channel that would allow passengers to listen to air traffic control. I thought this was pretty cool. It was especially cool since I knew someone who was an air traffic controller at our airport. I settled into my seat, tuned in the channel and started listening.

I kept hearing calm voices giving commands that I couldn’t understand as I listened for my friend’s voice. Then it hit me. What if I heard him? Would that be reassuring to me? What did I know about the man? He was probably the best juggler I knew, he was married, he had a daughter.

When he and I talked he didn’t use the calm air traffic voice. He laughed. His tone varied. I knew too much about him; he couldn’t possibly get my plane off the ground, he was a juggler.

I switched to a music channel. I felt bad about it. I knew he was good at his job, but some things should be handled by strangers. It doesn’t mean I trust my friends less. In fact, there are friends I trust implicitly but I would not want involved in certain tasks.

There Are People You Trust With Everything, And People You Only Trust Enough To Do Surgery On You

At sea in the Indian Ocean (Feb. 23, 2003) -- ...

Hey man, is that where that came from? Maybe we should wake him and see where he wants it. (Image via Wikipedia)

A few years ago I needed surgery.

They rolled me into a room full of strangers in masks. We made small talk. It was very calming.  They told me to count backward from ten, I went to sleep. I woke up stitched up and ready to go.

What if instead of the Doctors and Nurses in masks being strangers, I looked up and the eyes and voices behind the mask let me know the surgeon and anesthesiologist were my friends Dale and Steve – veterans of many misadventures with yours truly.

Me – Ha ha, thanks for coming boys, you guys are great. Now get the hell out of here and send in some responsible parties.

Dr. Dale – Dude, don’t worry. Steve is going to put you to sleep and I’m going to get the stone out.

Me – I’m not sure this is a good idea.

Dr. Steve – It’s OK Bro, I’ve got this. Count backward from 10.

Me – You know, maybe we should do this another day.

Dr. Dale – Relax. Think about something else. Remember when we took that train back from that bar on the shore?

Me – No.

Dr. Steve – Neither do I, count back from 10.

Me – Not until you promise to make sure he puts everything back where it was. Everything.

Dr. Dale – Come on, I wouldn’t do something like that. If I did, you know I’d put it back.

Dr. Steve – You know what it is Dale? He doesn’t know how to count backward.

Me – What?!? Up yours, man. Watch this…10, 9, 8….ummm 7…

Now, I am safe from Doctors Dale and Steve. If they actually were doctors I’d recommend them to you as good guys with big hearts. They would be good at what they did, but they’d never cut on me because of my policy that some things can only be done by strangers.

I’m sure my list will expand, but right now, in addition to doctors and air traffic controllers, all pilots and bank presidents must be complete strangers to me.

What occupations are on your list?

Steely Dan, Sign in Stranger:


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37 Comments on “Sign In Stranger”

  1. Funny you say this. A good friend of mine was getting surgery where the head O.R. nurse was a good friend of hers. Her biggest issue with it was that she would be naked on the operating room table for all to see. Strangers freaked her out big enough but her friend….oh she hated the thought of that. She was sure she would exit the operating room with some new marker tatoos in strange places curtosy of her friend, but alas professionalism was the name of the game that day, no new marker tattoos.

    • omawarisan says:

      And the professionalism thing is what I know we could all count on from our friends who do these jobs. It is the anticipation of the person behind the profession slipping out that does it.

      And the funny thing is, I know it works both ways.

  2. Betty says:

    My friend’s husband is an air traffic controller. When they go on vacation, he refuses to fly, opting to drive even if it’s a thousand miles. That freaks me out.

  3. Yeah, so right. I was in the hospital once and the nurse turned out to be my neighbor. No one is at their best in a hospital. I have small veins and they couldn’t get the IV in. They tried 9-10 times. When they said they were going to stick me again, I decided to go home, got up and took a cab home in my nightgown. Relationship was strained at best after that 🙂

    • omawarisan says:

      Auuugh hate the repeated stick thing. I get it when I give blood. Supposedly my veins are hard to find.

      I wonder what it is like for your neighbor to go to the hospital? “that’s not how I’d have done it.

  4. Blogdramedy says:

    Used car salesman…I’ve seen what my friends drive.
    Clothing store clerk…I’ve seen what my friends wear.
    Psychiatrist…my friends know how I think.

    • omawarisan says:

      Oh man, psyc docs, I feel bad for those people. Everyone thinks they are constantly analyzing others. We had one for a bit on on a work team I’m part of. He made an observation about me that people have noted before. When other people pointed it out, I didnt care, when he did it just plain screwed with me.

  5. planetross says:

    I’m glad the graveyard shift guy at 7-11 isn’t someone I know. I’d be open to a lot of abuse, if that were the case.

    note: is this a repost from long ago? It seems like I’ve read this before.

    • omawarisan says:

      Yeah, vacation week once again so I’m mixing up some old and new stuff. I’m driving home tomorrow, back to work on Saturday.

      Night runs to 7-11…yeah, kind of a limited number of things you need at that time. Burritos, right? 😉

  6. Yeah, I got nothing. Cab driver might be one…I prefer not to speak to people when I’m in a cab. I haven’t gone as far as Elaine did in Seinfeld by pretending I was hard of hearing…but I’ve been close.

    • omawarisan says:

      I never know how to start with cabbies. I have friends who do and do it every time. The one thing I’ve noticed is that when I’ve been in a cab with them, the driver is a lot less aggressive.

  7. Todd Pack says:

    Good point, Oma. I have several friends who became doctors or dentists. They’re totally responsible individuals and were, even in high school, but there’s no way I’d see them professionally.

  8. Kim Pugliano says:

    Sorry, but OB/GYN. I REALLY don’t need my friends to know me that well annually. It’s hard enough I had a friend do my mammogram. Awkward!

    Also, although I don’t have one because I am amazing housewife, I would feel really uncomfortable if I hired someone I knew to clean my house and discover all the places I missed.

  9. madtante says:

    Speaking of car salesmen:

    Ex-BFF (long story there, we’ve been friends since she was 5, I was 6; met in VBS–so more like a sister; through the years of her drugs or not-on-drugs and other Bad Things, I finally made a break with her a couple years ago when she abandoned her daughter for a few months to party in another state–she cleaned herself up for now but I just can’t be a huge part of her life anymore) amongst other things sold BMWs. At one point, she stepped “down” to sell what some people had traded in, so she sold a VW to her MOTHER
    .
    .
    .
    For $500 over what she should’ve. As if that’s not bad enough, she’d brag about that at any parties I ever went to where there were other car salesmen. They all have a sticking to a nun or mother story. So, like with lawyers, the stereotypes are true.

  10. Pauline says:

    I’m going to have to agree on the reluctance to have friends operate on me or OB/GYN comment!

    Sometimes a little mystery between friends is a good thing! 😉

  11. Yes. Especially if the doctor is question is a proctologist.

    • omawarisan says:

      oooh, yeah. I am coming up on the old colonoscopy. I’m thinking of insisting the Dr. wear a hood so I don’t have any idea what he or she looks like.

  12. Jane says:

    So true! That’s why I could never live in a very small town where everyone knows everyone and his or her history.

    Checking out a book at the library might be a problem; for instance, it might be uncomfortable to check out the memoirs of a public figure who is held in high disregard by the general population. Next thing you know, Mom, Dad, and best friends stop talking as soon as you enter the room. Strangers make better librarians.

    It is better that strangers check you out at the drug store. It’s hard enough to purchase hemorrhoid creams.

    Only strangers should wash your car at the carwash. How could anyone bring a dirty car to a friend.

    It is imperative that financial advisors / brokers be strangers. If the stocks they suggest take a dive, it might be difficult not to hold it against them, thus ruining a good relationship; conversely, if the stocks quadruple in value, a gift is almost mandatory.

    Certainly, I could explore the benefits of strangers in many more areas, but I’ll let it rest for now.

    I love these thought-provoking posts.

    • omawarisan says:

      Thank you!

      So many strangers are actually very reassuring… even when we know our friends are really good at what they do.

      I like the librarian thought. I wonder if what you read goes on your “permanent record”.

      • Anonymous says:

        Librarians fight very hard to protect patrons’ privacy.

        Or so I’m told.

        • omawarisan says:

          You know where there’s a hell of a Library Science Program? University Of Maryland. Sure, you wouldn’t expect it from a school with an Asphalt Institute, but it is true.

          Or so I’m told.

  13. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Well, there are the obvious ones – psychiatrist, marriage counselor, dentist, yes, all those. I would like these others to remain strangers: mail delivery person, garbage collectors (what I throw away should never be shared among friends), hairdresser (once had a boyfriend who was my hairdresser and during one haircut he snipped my ear – not so subtle a message, eh?), and just about everyone I work with.

    • omawarisan says:

      People you work with is an interesting thought, and I completely agree! There are people I work with who I am very attached to, but I would never ever go to their homes for dinner. Once I retire, I’d be cool with that, but for now, no. I don’t socialize with work folks.

  14. The Jagged Man says:

    I never consciously thought about it before but I don’t frequent my professional friends businesses. They have referred me to someone else and they never took offense and we are still friends. Great policy Oma!

  15. Thypolar says:

    I agree!! For me it would h e to be my dentist, Gynecologist, trashman, and mail lady all need to be strangers.

  16. I think everyone’s covered this nicely. Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

  17. Kim Pugliano says:

    I just thought of another one. I HATE meeting hair dressers. I always feel like they’re staring at my hair wondering, “What the HELL was she thinking?”

    • Snoring Dog Studio says:

      I do, too, Kim! Before my hairdresser can say it, I blurt out, “I cut my own hair! I did! Forgive me!” I just don’t need that kind of stress.

  18. Lenore Diane says:

    I’d prefer not to know my dental hygienist or dentist. They may speak of my bad breath at parties. Not good. I agree with Kim, too – please keep the OB/GYN on the stranger list.

    This was good, Oma. Real good. I’d say I liked it, but Japecake ruined ‘like’ for me. Meany.


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