I once met a man on the way to Incheon International Airport. I was sitting alone with my enormous travel bag, reading, and he drifted into the seat next to me. At length, he wrote the word “wretch” on a napkin in a lovely, florid cursive style, and asked me to pronounce it. It became clear that this was simply his ice-breaker, as he informed me that, as a retiree, he had nothing to do but ride the rails all day and talk to strangers. Internally, I reacted with some degree of horror. Why would someone spend his golden years of rest experiencing something so horrible and repulsive, so dehumanizing and alienating and weird?
Not talking to strangers, mind you. Riding the subway.