Last weekend, as I was walking back from the coffee shop, I was stopped by a couple seeking directions. It was immediately clear that they spoke very little English. What was also clear was that he was being “forced” by his wife to finally ask for directions. Sidebar: I find it fascinating that this phenomenon appears to transcend country of origin or native tongue. Why is it that men refuse to ask for directions?! But I digress.
Having lived/worked downtown Chicago for almost nine years, I’ve found that I’m quite often stopped and asked for directions. Sometimes I’m stopped by international travelers, sometimes by those visiting from out of state and sometimes by suburbanites or even city dwellers who rarely come downtown. Regardless of who’s asking, I try my best to help them out. I do this because I like helping. I also do it with the hope that someone will be kind enough to help me when I’m traveling.
In addition to providing directions, I’ll sometimes offer to snap a photo of a couple so that they can have a shot together in front of a landmark. I’ll also volunteer to snap a shot of girlfriends who will settle for a selfie but would much rather have a proper memory of their “girls’ weekend out” in Chicago.
If you live in a touristy town, or even if you’re visiting another city and are stopped for help, or a photo, I’d encourage you oblige the requestor. I don’t encourage you just because it’s the nice thing to do, but also because you never know who you might meet or what you might learn during one of these encounters.