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You Think You Know Me

You Think You Know Me

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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I don't know you, but I think I know something about you. And I'm not the only one — the woman who handed you your decaf triple non-fat espresso macchiato might. Same for the crossing guard who waved you and your kid across the intersection en route to school. I'm guilty, also, of making up a story about the stranger across from me on my bus home. And I have an idea about the stories people conjure about me, too.

When I was in college I wore big pants and a wallet chain, and watched on numerous occasions as nervous parents moved their kids out of my path. These days I've got a tattoo that's visible almost all the time, and I've had plenty of curious stares as a result. Sometimes, however, someone takes the time to ask me about it, like on a plane from Phoenix to DC the day after Super Tuesday. A middle-aged woman with short hair, neat makeup, a sweatshirt, and a Bible sat down next to me — ample fodder for the story I'd create. She introduced herself, caught a glimpse of my tattoo, and an indecipherable expression flashed across her face. She immediately asked me about it, and my first assumption, that she'd been turned off by it in some way, was quickly replaced by a more accurate picture. Turns out she was a youth outreach counselor, and from her line of questioning, I think she saw me as an opportunity, an outsider of some sort on whom she could practice her communication skills. I'm actually kind of glad we didn't get personal enough for me to reveal my completely pedestrian (or, at least, not "alterna-") line of work.

So, I'm wondering: What are the stories you make up about strangers, and what do you think they think about you? Photographer Kevin Connolly had some ideas...