The world is full of useless information. My soda can says it contains more high fructose corn syrup than phosphoric acid. On the radio, the Emergency Broadcast System tells me what would have happened "if this had been an actual emergency." What we need in this county is something we can truly apply to our every day lives. And so, with this in mind, I address the following subject: Eye Contact Etiquette.
We all know that, to be polite, we are to look another person in the eye when he or she is speaking to us. However, what do you do when you're dealing with someone you've never met and most likely never will, when neither of you says a word? Specifically, what do you do when you pass someone on the street?
I realize there are certain times and certain metropolitan centers where eye contact should be avoided like a 99-cent pot roast, but assuming I'm not taking my life into my hands as I walk down the street, what am I supposed to do if I pass somebody I don't know?
The easiest thing would be to ignore them, to look straight ahead and walk on by. But do we really want to treat another human being like that? I know it bugs me when someone gives the ol' "It's a gloriously sunny day out today but I'm going to stare at the sidewalk three inches in front of my feet just so I don't have to look at you" routine. It makes me feel like I'm either a homicidal rape fiend or the ugliest thing to ever don tennis shoes (and, no, I'm not taking a poll).
So courtesy says we look at each other. But when? And for how long? If it's early afternoon and I'm walking by myself toward another lone individual only by herself, I'm going to be able to see her eyes from pretty far away. Do I admire the surrounding trees or buildings until just before we pass? That one's just as obvious and cruel as total ignorance, especially when the other person picks up on it and digs her eyes firmly into the concrete. So, that leaves me no choice but the straight-forward, eye-to-eye approach. But how long do I hold the glance before I look just as freak-like and confirm the other person's homicidal nightmares? Do I find the eyes immediately and stare until we pass each other? If I do, I feel like an intrusive sicko, like Howard Stern at cheerleader try-outs. If I make eye contact briefly and then look away, I feel like the timid school-boy with more highlighters than friends. If I make eye-contact and she looks away I'm back to being that psycho mutant again.
OK, maybe I'm making too big a deal out of this (we've all got to have hobbies). But I'm guessing there are others out there who share my confusion. Maybe I should just look wherever my eyes naturally fall. On second thought, that won't work either, because I'd always end up with my eyes fixed to that magnetic area between a girl's armpits. Maybe I am a psychopathic lunatic. Or maybe I just need to go buy me a pair of sunglasses.