Trusting Strangers: a Way of Life
Do you trust strangers? Of course you do. Our lives depend on trusting strangers. You wouldn’t leave your house if you didn’t trust strangers.
This is what I thought the other day as I watched a cop walking the beat on my commuter train. He’s “packing,” of course. He’s a big guy with a big gun hanging from his holster. I look at him and he says “good morning” very softly. I say it back.
We all feel secure with him there. But why do we feel secure? He is a stranger with a gun. We feel secure because he is a stranger with a gun wearing a police uniform, the universal symbol that he’s here to protect us. We all rest easily.
But if he weren’t wearing a uniform we would all be frozen in fear…terrified.
But then I think: We trust that he is a cop. How hard, really, is it to get a facsimile of a police uniform? We hear stories on the news about police imposters stopping cars on the highways.
And if we’re sure that he is a cop, we trust that he’s not a psychopath who happens to be a cop who wants to kill us all. We live by trusting strangers.
We trust that drivers will stop at red lights; we trust that chefs in restaurants won’t poison us; we trust that the pilot who soars our plane up to 35,000 feet isn’t suicidal.
We always trust strangers; it’s a way of life.