September 23, 2008

Social Skills: Offering to Help
Deva, Romania

We arrived in Deva late this evening by train to find Laura, our next CouchSurfing hostess, waiting for us at the train station. She wasn't hard to miss—a late-twenties American and quite large (…as in wide).

It's natural to size someone up when you first encounter them (most anyone is doing it numerous times a day within their own spheres of life), but there are certain things about first encounters with a new CouchSurfing host that I'm starting to consistently pick up on to help me better understand this new personality that will be a part of our lives.

Without question, the first big thing I notice when a host meets us is if they offer to help Tatiana with her bag or not. Here we've got this smallish woman with a nearly 20-pound baby lashed to her front and probably 40-something pounds of backpack on her shoulders. Plus, she's probably carrying a large plastic bag full several dozen diapers. (I may be forced into carrying a pack on my front full of Aidric's gear, but it's critical for me to have both my hands free as often as possible.)

Assuming we meet at a train or bus station (or someplace outside the host's home), the scene plays out like this: We all shake hands, give greetings and name introductions (so that we're all pronouncing them correctly), show Aidric off (perhaps he's sleeping, maybe he's awake), and then start walking along our way (perhaps to a taxi, host's car, or home within walking distance).

It's at this moment, at this point in time, when it's always enjoyable to hear "can I help you out with anything?" or "can I take one of your packs?"

Now, I don't think negatively of someone if they don't offer to help out with Tatiana's backpack—after all, she shouldn't be traveling with it if she can't carry it—but it's just one of those things that start giving you an idea of how outgoing or socially adjusted someone is.

The host knows exactly how long or strenuous the walk will be to their home, we don't. This is always a bit of mystery to us, and as we're walking and I'm chatting with our new host(s), such a question is always at the forefront of both our minds—I don't want to see her schlepping her massive pack around any longer than she needs to.

Tonight, Laura didn't offer to help with Tatiana's backpack when we probably should've taken a $1 taxi ride in the first place (instead of walking the width of the city in the cold of the night).

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