Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Familiar Stranger... No Foreplay

No those two are not related except perhaps in fantasy land, so hold your horses ;)

Familiar Stranger

I read this interesting piece here

Urban living brings about an interesting phenomenon, one which Milgram calls the Familiar Stranger.
The Familiar Stranger is a person you see during your daily activities, but don’t interact with: the gentleman at the bus stop, the babysitter at the park, or the lady on the subway.
But consider for a moment you saw the lady on the subway while traveling to Paris. Can you imagine, it’s likely you would practically become best friends in a day!
To be a familiar stranger, a person has to be
1. observed
2. repeatedly for a certain time period
3. without any interaction
Milgram notes,
But it’s a real relationship, in which both parties have agreed to mutually ignore each other, without any implication of hostility.
Students from a university in New York went to the commuter stations and interviewed commuters. They found that on average, commuters knew 4 familiar strangers but had only talked to 1.5 individuals.
Commuters said they have a fantasy relationship with familiar strangers, trying to figure out what kind of lives they lead, what their jobs are, etc.
This phenomenon is explained as a response to the overload of inputs from the environment — perceptual processing takes considerably less time than social processing.
I can certainly identify with the term “familiar stranger” given that I am a regular commuter on public transit.
Might as well use this time to describe one of those "familiar strangers".

I have no idea what to make of her. I just know on this train she is usually there. She takes a different train in and comes up the stairs to the lobby to switch to our train. I can close my eyes and almost imagine her. Brunette, curly hair slightly below the shoulders. Slim build, mostly in capris. Jeans rare. Thin framed glasses usually perched on a straight nose. Some times has sunglasses perched on top of her head. On warm days the thick lovely curls get tied in to a tight pony, where the strands of hair as soon as they are let free from the confines of whatever she uses to shepherd them, cascade free.

She always has a serene expression. A book is usually what she seems engrossed in. A look at the train arrival/departure board and without much of a look any where else she usually heads to a wooden bench. She then loses herself in her book. I have not seen her smile or talk to anyone. We have made eye contact once and we both had our expressionless “face” on, neither letting the other know what thoughts flowed under. The casual, almost indifferent but malice free looks that strangers often dispense with freely, and in generous amounts.
I have wondered about whats she does, the look is business casual. I haven’t noticed a ring. Is she a librarian maybe? ;-)

Oh man even as I was typing this up she just sat a few feet away from me, lavender shirt, black pants nice shoes, probably 3 inch heels. She is lost in her book as always and for me shall remain a mystery yet a familiar stranger.
Do any of you have any familiar stranger stories?

No more foreplay needed? Link here
Wait that’s just the title. I don’t want to be out on the couch or in the doghouse for this one in case *A* is reading ;).
Women may have a reputation for demanding lengthy foreplay, but they become sexually aroused as quickly as men, according to a new study that used thermal imaging to measure increased blood flow to genital regions.
While watching pornography, both sexes reach peak arousal within 10 minutes, on average, researchers report.
Earlier attempts to record sexual arousal have involved invasive probes and electrodes, according to Tuuli Kukkonen, who helped conduct the study led by Irv Binik at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Canada.
For this reason, Kukkonen and her colleagues used thermal imaging to record raised temperatures in subjects’ genital areas. The thermal imaging camera can measure temperature changes from a distance and relay the information to a computer for analysis.

Tell-tale signs
More heat indicates greater blood flow to the genital area, a tell-tale sign of sexual arousal. Kukkonen says that modern thermal imaging technology is much more sophisticated than earlier versions, and can now accurately measure temperature changes of 0.001°C within a few square millimetres.

In the new study, 28 men and 30 women first watched a video of the Canadian countryside in a room on their own, so that researchers could establish each individual’s baseline temperatures.
Subjects were naked from the waist down and positioned themselves such that their genital area was exposed and readable by the thermal imaging device. The participants next watched another video with the same subject matter, or one featuring pornography, horror or comedic clips from the Best Bits of Mr Bean.

Maximum arousal
The computer only registered a spike in genital temperatures while subjects watched pornography, and not the other films. In those viewing porn, these temperatures increased by about 2°C, on average.
Moreover, men reached peak sexual arousal in 665 seconds – about 10 minutes – while women arrived at maximal arousal in 743 seconds. The difference between the times was not statistically significant, the researchers point out.

Mind you this is just a study and pornographic images clearly have an affect. But wonder how this would work for most couples, who may have nothing else going to “assist” the process but each other and their imaginations (this can be very effective). I don’t think it is a given either ways. Some of us can surely attest that this works differently at different times.


Aditi said...

I had familiar strangers the semester I took the train. People i knwo were there every morning but i never talked to

Sai said...

I have a familiar stranger story but it is not about someone who commutes with me but someone I see everyday at the park for the past four years that I have been living in this town. Every Spring, Summer and fall my husband and I go to the park with our bikes at a specific time between 5:30 to 6:00 PM. We always see this elderly gentleman walking on the trails. We see many other bikers and joggers whom I would say are nodding acquaintances, we nod at each other as we pass by. I remember this person because he doesn’t smile has a frown and looks like a total crank! I always greet him without fail and always get an “hmmph” as a response. It amuses me to no end as they say exercise makes your body release endorphins, which is turn is a mood elevator but this man is one hell of an unhappy camper! Therefore, for the past four years it has been our routine. I always say “Good Evening” and get the same response and a frown. Last week at work one of our secretaries told me that her father was in the building and she would like to introduce him to me. I said sure why not and found that it was none other than “Mr. Grumpy.” When we were introduced I give him the broadest smile and say “Good morning.” He looks at me with a confused look and says “I have seen you somewhere before, have we met.” It was so hilarious! Now when we pass by at the park, he nods back.

Maggie said...

What a cool thought, familiar strangers. I have one place where I see familiar strangers. We do our groceries every Thursday night at around 6:30 at the same market each week. There is another couple who do the same. They do not have children but love to ogle our twins. They are always smiling serenely and doing their groceries. I think how alike our lives are, yet we never talk or meet.

starry nights said...

I have had a familiar stranger before , a person I would meet everyday, watched him but never ever talked but had the same questions you had.sometimes i feel I should have made the first move and just talked to be friendly.but did not.

Gangadhar said...

interesting read,Sanjay!

Aditi said...

Ohh I thought long and hard and I found my most interesting familiar stranger story.
Freshmen year in college, there was this girl, she was in all my classes. We'd usually sit a few row aparts and I always noticed her but didnt talk to her. Third semester, after not talking to her for the first two years, I pointed her out to my roommate, who said, "Oh I know her let me introduce u guys"
Turns out she and I became really close friends, still are.

priya said...


I have always seen people who I meet on day today basis, but we never speak but a simple smile if they can. Many things come to mind what they do and where they go. Isn't it strange we all are curious to know about others.

Sanjay said...

@Aditi.. I am knew there was a story hidden there ;)

@Sai.. Thats such a funny story. Loved reading it.

@Maggie. You have twins? cool. I would have started too if I was the couple. Twins are always special :)

@Starry. I guess I am a bit like you. I take a while to open up and be friendly.

@Ganga .. Thanks

@Priya. Indeed we do. :)

M (tread softly upon) said...

I had a whole lot of these familiar strangers when I was taking the train in to work. people I saw every single day and missed when they weren't there. Sometimes we'd nod or smile. I even talked to one (does that still qualify?). Now that I drive I don't see any of them and sometimes wonder if they miss me?:)

Sanjay said...

@M.. I am sure they miss you. :) I always tend to notice when I don't see certain ppl for a length of time.

Maya Cassis said...

I have the urge to know some of the familiar strangers in my surroundings.Sometimes there is this intense urge but I feel they may get scared and walk off.
but it's so true when we do meet them in a completely different radius,it's funny how you hook up and become the best of friends :)
loved this post

nadim said...

familiar strangers ! nt just ppl v meet in real life n nt talk but also ppl v meet online nd talk but nevr meet! arnt v all familiar strangers to each oder?

nadim said...

nd thanks for dropping by!
didyu take da test? cant c in ur blog, which means da results were....??? hahaha!

Paulomee said...

i have familiar strangers on campus. i know he's a med student or a pharmacy student or whatever by the shirts they wear, we smile and cross paths and move on. u want to say hi, but u dont know them, so its awkward to just say hi..
i like the term familiar strangers.
by the way, i hope ure doc's visit went alright.. only good things i hope.
secondly, haha men talk about sex so often, women are thinking the same thing, we just dont feel the need to say it outloud. hehe ;)!

oldwhitelady said...

Yes... familiar strangers. There is a woman that works at the same building as I. She looks so much like one of my dear lost friends, but I know she's not. She seems like a nice person. I might have said "hi" to her once or twice. We've both worked there for quite some time.

Eli said...

I have tons of familiar strangers, mostly at work, although there are some I would see on the bus or on the way to or from work. The only thing I have even remotely approaching a familiar stranger story was that there was this one guy I would see on my way to work a lot, who kind of annoyed me on some subconscious level.

He ended up being assigned as kind of a temporary project advisor/manager to a project I was working on, and turned out to be a very nice guy. Riveting, no?

Also, "spike in genital temperatures" is a really cringe-inducing choice of words.

Sanjay said...

@ Eli.. Riveting, no? lol..indeed. It started of well though. :)

As for spike in genital temps? I think thats how scinetists speak. It may make some of us cringe.

@Maya.It's hard to believe anyone would be scared of ya. ;)

@Nadim.. Will take the test. Been too busy today.

@old white lady.. Thats interesting. Maybe she is poorly made clone? Sorry poor attempt at humor.

@Paulomee.. lol yep. Women may not feel the need to talk about it, but why not? Don't let that hold ya back. Also I have a few other familiar stranger stories but maybe for another time. BTW who be you? You know abt my doc's visit?
It went well.

moegirl said...

I usually make up elaborate back stories for my familiar strangers. My current one is a petite woman with blond white girl dreadlocks and many piercing.

My religious upbringing causes me to be to embarrassed to comment on the other subject matter, but alternately super intrigued.

Sanjay said...

@Moegirl.. Interesting. Maybe you could do a story about the dreadlocked blonde and then a post?

Keshi said...

Jay wut u doin to me!!!!


chocolteluva said...

sorry, it used my gmail account to post the comment instead of my blogger.
paulomee is my real name, pooja just a fun nick name in the family, more familiar to you.
im still choclteluva, or the pooj or the terror if u may!
sorry if i creeped u out cause i asked u about the doc's appt!!

chocolteluva said...

lol the reason women hold back, is cause if men find out we like sex just as much -- oy, i think "whore" is the word used for women who talk alot abt sex. assumptions of "oh she's been there done PLENTY" are made. trust me, ive been a victim of these things..
most of us women like to keep it to our selves or talk about it to other women, cause at the end of the day,
a man is a stud and a woman a slut.

Neers said...

this is interesting!! all the more interesting, is the fact, that have thought about this... sometimes! lotsa familiar stranger stories! :)

Prometheus_Unbound said...

Awesome title boss.

Ya, the familiar stranger idea is so true. There are these familiar strangers you come across thoughout the day. Sometimes if you in a real good mood you just nod a greeting, nothing more. Although you mentally try to solve the person, you never actually intitiate contact as the mere thought of engaging one more person seems so daunting.

Sanjay said...

@Keshi... Who me? :) n what did I do?

@Choc. NO am not creeped out. I figured it might be you but was not sure.

I sort of agree with what you say. But not all men do that. So . but I get your point. To me a woman has every right to do what a guy does. I don't do labels really.

@neers maybe you can write some. :) you do write well.

@prometheus.. I agree. "familiar stranger" is some one else's invention. I just threw it together. Thanks

~River~ said...

Oh, I love the idea of the familiar stranger! And it feels strange that you're Sanjay and not karmic_jay anymore.

PS: My husband's name is Sanjay too! :D

Sanjay said...

@River.. Aww.. Your husband's names is Sanjay too. You know I think Sanjays are married to some awesome women. ;-)