Helen Robinson mug, Staff note, 9/27/21

Helen Robinson, Managing Editor

I was in Wild Goose the other day when I heard another Australian.

I wasn’t sure at first — the longer I’m gone from home, the longer it takes me to distinguish between a real Australian accent and my own wishful thinking. But a few words in I realized yes, he really was Australian, and that’s so rare I almost stood up and said Hey—

Hey what?

“Hey, we come from the same 3-million-square-mile island”?

“Hey, we know the sharks probably won’t get you but the kangaroos might”?

“Hey, you’re the only other person here who knows what Wanker Coffee is”?

I stayed sitting. It would be weird to say anything. What if he was in a hurry? What if he thought I had a motive? What if the person I was waiting for showed up?

He left; I thought about not being the only Australian in the room; and then I got to thinking about Michael.

Back when I lived in Germany my Mum came over to visit, and one morning I made her drive an extremely long way with me to Neustadt an der Weinstraße because I’d heard there was an incredible espresso place there, and because I’m that brand of annoying. And as we were going to the window bar with our (yes very incredible) coffee, this guy came up behind me and said, “I couldn’t help noticing—” and I froze a bit because, you know.

“I couldn’t help noticing your accent, and I know I seem like Weird Stalker Guy, but where in Australia are you from?”

Michael was Australian too, and he worked in aviation in Germany and Switzerland, and he missed hearing Australian accents, and he took us outside to meet his girlfriend, who was a wine writer. We talked for ages. Ten years later, we’re still friends.

I love a person who can get over themselves and make a new friend, whether it’s for a decade or for half an hour, and usually that’s me. I’m the opposite of shy. But the lockdowns and the social distancing and the no hugs/no handshakes and the masks (don’t get me wrong, God bless the masks) make everything more awkward than it used to be. We’re all kinds of out-of-practice, and we’re a bit tired.

But I think it’s worth clearing the hurdles and making the effort. The pandemic has changed the rules on everything anyway; I think we can bend them a bit further, in the direction of more connection, not less. We can make our circles bigger, we can bring more people in.

Ignore the awkwardness, say the “Hey—”

You might make someone’s day sunnier for a moment. You might make a friend for a decade.

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