Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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The Company of Strangers

Taking Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” conceit into the 21st century.
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The best way to explain this is to pretend that it already exists. So here goes:

Somewhere, in some shadowy corner of the World Wide Web, there lurks a website called “The Company of Strangers”. It does not advertise itself in any way – in fact, it actively shirks publicity – but still, through word of mouth alone (although the URL is always spoken in hushed tones), it has built up a membership of millions. Chances are, at least one or two of the people you know are fully paid-up members, but no-one will ever admit to knowing anything about it. The first rule of “The Company of Strangers” is that… you don’t rip off Fight Club. Dammit, too late. But anyway, I’m sure you get the gist.

When you join – after going through screads of seemingly interminable disclaimers – you will be asked for lots of personal information. Lots of personal information. The Company of Strangers doesn’t care about who you actually are, they just want to ascertain what kind of impact you’ll make as a stranger entering someone else’s life. Are you big and beefy, perhaps even slightly intimidating-looking? Do you typically look “geeky”, or intelligent, or eccentric, or well-heeled? They also need to know where you live, but their strict anonymity policy means that that information will forever remain strictly confidential.

Having joined, you simply sit tight, safe in the knowledge that you now have an army of strangers behind you, should you ever need them. And who doesn’t sometimes need the help of complete strangers? Simply give the Company of Strangers details of what you need, and they’ll search their extensive database and get the requisite members on the case. Want to be hassled by a couple of swarthy guys on the way home from your first date with that special someone and stylishly kick ass in an impressive manner? The Company of Strangers will provide. Or maybe you’re giving a speech at a minor public event – who was that guy who clapped so energetically and started the standing ovation? A fellow Stranger, of course. Your boss says you’ll be fired unless people start buying those strange Guatamalean triple-jumping beans that you personally ordered – suddenly five people you’ve never seen before walk into your shop and walk out with half the stock. Or perhaps you’ve just bought a new coat which all your friends are laughing at – a few random compliments from Strangers would soon silence them.

And in return for all these favours, you also have to do your duty as a Stranger yourself. A cryptic email from the Company of Strangers tells you to be in a certain place at a certain time, and perform a specific task. Company etiquette dictates that you can talk to no-one else about these little sojourns you make into other people’s lives. Still, you don’t just get the endless backup of the Company, you also get to make your life more interesting (and feel like some kind of secret agent) as you act an out-of-character role every now and again, and know that you’re adding a little bit of colour to someone else’s life.

Of course, the website is run on a strictly non-profit basis. Any monies that Strangers might require to carry out their tasks are provided (and re-routed, via an anonymous Swiss bank account, of course) by whoever asked the favour in the first place.

Of course, this service could be easily subverted by criminal types (was it an inside job? Of course not! The raid was obviously made by total Strangers…), but that’s not my intention. Nothing illegal – just little favours, carried out by an army of faceless conspirators…

lostdog, Apr 22 2003

Just in case http://illdill.org/travels.htm
My guilty conscience and imaginative mind [TimD, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Random Acts of Kindness http://www.extremekindness.com/
Something like this? [Canuck, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

[link]






       I think people should just live cheap and honest.
TimD, Apr 22 2003
  

       Ya liked that one aye? :) It took me 20 minutes to come up with.. :) lol....
TimD, Apr 22 2003
  

       Funny you say, as i forgot to mention on the site (quitting is more exciting then starting again), It only lasted until a week ago. :( But a month is a good time and tells me that when im living in my earthship, growing my own tobbacco, I will settle for what I get. :) (probably enough for a pack a week...? Good for me!) - and not frequent enough to be harmful..
TimD, Apr 22 2003
  

       Thanks, bliss. Of course, now true strangers reading this idea are apt to think it's already baked... (but don't worry. You'll still get an automatic croissant on your next idea, as promised via "imaginary" website...)
lostdog, Apr 22 2003
  

       I've seen all manner of charity, friendship, companionship, genuine care and concern, teamwork and debate all going on between the (kinda) strangers at the Bakery.
FloridaManatee, Apr 22 2003
  

       Isn't this what the Freemasons (allegedly) do? Nice idea though.
angel, Apr 23 2003
  

       hey, if it existed, i'd sign up. =) nice idea. ^^
eiji, Apr 23 2003
  

       Could this have any relation to the League of Extrodinary Gentlemen? Or did they all know each other prior? (I've never read the comics, but I thought it'd be an interesting analogy).
MrJustin, Apr 23 2003
  

       What angel said.
DrBob, Apr 23 2003
  

       Otherwise known as IBD. A little concerned about the possibility of infiltration and meddling of government intelligence, though.
RayfordSteele, Apr 23 2003
  

       Sounds good. I'm in. Does that mean there is a treaty between my secret society and yours? hmm... what if two adversaries are in the club? They might be called (and bound by honor) to help each other. It could turn into an interesting war of wits to see who can use the Power Of The Strangers effectivly.
johnmeacham, Apr 23 2003
  

       why have the task secret, let the task be transparent to all in the group. If a member wants to do the task or has the skills/resources, the task gets done. like praying to the group of strangers. morality would depend on the members want and ability to do the task. If the task is transparent to the world then task morality would also have outside people blocking completion
wjt, Apr 23 2003
  

       Absolutely fab, john. I see a book plot developing.
RayfordSteele, Apr 24 2003
  

       We already do. Oops!
angel, Apr 25 2003
  

       [Ray], I was confused - "otherwise known as IBD" ? I understand IBD as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, as in Crohn's Disease and Colitis. This obviously doesn't fit the context of your usage, but the light bulb finally went on.   

       I need one of the lingerie model-type Strangers to pretend to be my wife for a business conference. (I look nothing like Richard Gere). Thanks.
Canuck, Apr 25 2003
  

       oooh, creepily stated yet goodwilled idea. this rocks! ++good, lostdog.
igirl, Apr 26 2003
  

       Canuck, I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you...
RayfordSteele, Apr 27 2003
  

       Thanks for not having a Stranger kill me, Ray. I edited my previous anno just after I realized what IBD stands for, and I apologize for being such a dim bulb. If there comes a time when I can do you a favour...   

       (And I STILL don't look like Richard Gere).
Canuck, Apr 27 2003
  

       he doesn't have those little piggy eyes at all.
po, Apr 27 2003
  

       Mr. Santini's services are booked solid for the next three months, anyway.
RayfordSteele, Apr 27 2003
  

       I thought this is what being jewish in holywood is like.
terranea, May 02 2003
  

       IBD? Inadequately Baked Dough? Clearly, I am a dimmer bulb than Canuck. Perhaps you could arrange for someone to enlighten me on the Tube when I go home tonight...
friendlyfire, May 02 2003
  

       IBD? Seems to be some kind of a shadow group -- see Rods Tiger's page.
pluterday, May 02 2003
  

       another lostdog classic...
RayfordSteele, Feb 22 2006
  
      
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