Thursday, July 22, 2010

No Eye Contact Please

The other day I took a walk around the lake to get a little exercise.  It was a beautiful day,  so many people were out and about.  I did what I always do, avoid eye contact.

However, on this particular day, I began to question my behavior.  Why avoid eye contact?  I've got nothing to hide.  I don't have to engage in some long conversation.  Just have to catch someone's eye and say something like "good afternoon" or "hello" or  "great day".   I'll smile.  That person will smile.  Then he or she will see the next person and say something similar and soon everyone will be smiling and greeting each other and the world will be a better place.   After all we probably live in the same neighborhood, shop at the same stores, send our kids to the same schools.

I pondered this while several other people passed me by, all of us avoiding eye contact.   Finally, I decided that I would boldly look at the next person going by and say hi.   I could see her up ahead.  I'd already passed her once silently so it seemed rude to pass again in silence.  I looked her way.  She looked my way.  I smiled, nodded, said a brief hi, thinking that was easy.   Then, she said "Hi Jackie."    What?   Oh my.

I quickly scanned her face and slowly recognition came to me.  Yes, I did know her.   She once worked for me.  Once she threatened to quit because she wasn't getting something she wanted and I said something like "go ahead, make my day" only nicer.   She lost her job by someone else's hand, but I didn't lift mine to save it.     I did my best to make pleasant chit chat.

So much for spreading good cheer around the world.   And now that I think about it, there are times when no eye contact is critical.  Like when someone wants to squeeze their car in front of yours.  No eye contact!    Or if you are a waiter and you don't want to bring the bill.  No eye contact!  Or you know if you look at someone, you'll start to laugh or cry.  No eye contact!

So walking around the lake is just practice for those important no eye contact moments.  I therefore have gone back to admiring the sky, the clouds, the ducks on the lake, the cracks in the sidewalk or adopting that glazed look of someone listening intently to their i-pod.  

After all, no eye contact is an important life skill.

1 comment:

  1. I once smiled and said "hi" to a stranger in Lunds and he growled back at me "What the hell are you so happy about!?!?" I was, at that moment, forever cured of feeling bad about no eye contact.