I go on walks almost every day, usually listening to my iPod (sometimes pretending I am in a film—we all do it). My favourite things about my walks are the people I see. Sometimes there are very strange people. Recently I saw a woman talking to herself and I smiled, because I hadn’t seen a good old-fashioned talking-to-themselves person in a while (let me remind you that I live in a smallish town in England). But every now and again I come across someone who looks so interesting that they qualify as a “missed connection.”

Missed connections are those people that you feel you’d like to know, but you can’t work up the nerve to approach them, and so you will literally never see them again, probably in your whole life. If you think about the intricacies of all of the people in the world and all of the delicate lines connecting them for a moment here or there every single day—I mean, it takes only a second to look at someone as you walk by and then that’s it. That is the extent of your connection. There are so many seconds to fill in your life but there are also so many people in the world. It seems dizzyingly unlikely that you will ever cross paths with this person again. If you’d left the house a few seconds later you wouldn’t have even seen them in the first place. It all seems rather final and it upsets me.

To be specific: this week I was out walking and I decided to stop by the library. Outside the building I noticed someone I’d seen before. A leather-clad guy holding a motorcycle helmet, standing near a motorcycle. He was sort of normal-looking and I might not have noticed him if I hadn’t remembered I’d seen him before. I have a sort of fascination with motorcycles and those who ride them. I’d like to either learn to drive one myself or just have a motorcycle-riding boyfriend (I am not sure Mum would approve of either option).

Now, if this guy likes both books (library) and motorcycles (motorcycle), I suspect he is a pretty cool guy. I wanted badly to ask him about his bike, but I didn’t. Of course I didn’t. I left without saying a word.

What do normal people do in these situations? I sort of turn to mush in most kinds of social contact with complete strangers. Do people actually try and make conversation? Generally the most I can muster is a smile. I can’t imagine actually talking to any of the people I see every day, because just seeing someone and not knowing them, you paint a picture in your head of who they are. Maybe your idea of them it is better than the reality.

And when I think about a lot of social situations, I can only imagine how I’d ruin them, or how awkward I’d feel. But maybe in this case the reality isn’t as bad as the picture in my head, and maybe I just need practice. I think it comes down to being ridiculously scared of being embarrassed.

If I do manage to start a conversation with a complete stranger and it is successful (or if it goes horribly wrong) I’ll let you know. ♦