I’ll tell you what creates a certain feeling of anxiety…
Having a neighbor who never looks at you.
If she is not looking straight ahead at the wall of the elevator, or down at her imaginary cafeteria tray…maybe if you catch her by total surprise, and force her to suddenly look your way because you say something INSANE like “Hello!”, then she might look toward you…as if she heard a mysterious echo from 30 inches away…and you might be able to trick her into finding your face.
It will frustrate you when her eyes wander up over the top of your head to the right, or down at your shoulder to the left…almost defying the laws of physics that – even Newton would agree, according to his 85th Law – states that human eyes must seek the exact direction from which a sound originated.
Instead of looking at you and saying “Why, yes, hello! …Yes! Indeed, we two are together here on this little patch of the universe that happens to be a 5 x 5 foot elevator; it’s nice to see you…” she looks through the junction of your collar bones toward New York City and offers a half-smile in that direction. You wonder if that qualifies as a greeting or if it is her way to apologize for passing a wee bit of sour flatulence in such a small space. (It does smell kind of dank in that elevator.)
My God! You wonder: Is she afraid of what she’ll see? Are you invisible? Is she afraid of what you will see? Or, could it be? Is she afraid of what you smell?
Has she been possessed? …or would that be un-possessed?
Never has there been such a problem as this flagrant failure of Newton’s 85th Law of Physics. It’s happening everywhere, I know (and Isaac would surely flip his physics-lid if he were alive today to see it). But when it is on an elevator, in an enclosed space, where communication is happening whether you like it or not…and you might as well make the best of it…it is proof that the very existence of humanity’s sanity is at risk!
Listen! Someone has got to say something. And, by that, I mean, me.
Stop the madness! Protect Newton’s 85th Law!
It’s bad enough that everyone else in the world hardly looks at you.
It’s super creepy when it’s your neighbor.
…Okaaaay, it’s super creepy any time; like when your mates who ride the bus with you every day Never. Look. Up.
Let’s take this morning as an example. The only passenger on the bus whose full face I could see was the fellow sitting ramrod straight against the window, facing the aisle, eyes closed, enjoying his music. I know him, but I think he probably does not know me.
Well, no. I don’t know him. But, at least I can identify him in a crowd. He has the courtesy and courage to show his face, even if his eyelids are closed. (I have never seen his eyes open. He is always on the 146 around 10:30 a.m. Despite our many years together on the 146, I have never gotten a glimpse of him coming or going. He does not have a cane or seeing-eye dog; he just has a backpack. So, I assume, at some point, he does open his eyes. Then again, I wonder: Could I be wrong? How far will someone go in this farce?)
Anyway, today I am determined. I want him to open his eyes and look at me. Just to see him. To say hello. To see if he says it back. But no. No matter how hard I stare at him, he is impermeable to my efforts. He uses his bulletproof earphones and eyelids to resist the superhuman tractor beam of my gaze.
Ahead of us, on both the right and left sides of the bus, sitting along the windows on each side, like ducks in a row, are the bowed heads of my bus cohort. Every one of their ten-pound heads angles forward at 20 degrees off the vertical axis, slowly tugging on the delicate matter of their spinal cords (likely causing some degree of premature cognitive decline); grinding down the front side of their vertebrae (early arthritis, folks); settling their formerly soft eyeballs into a fixed size and shape that will forever prevent them from looking up at the sky without getting an eyeball cramp. Nah. They are not going to show their faces at all.
As for the blokes behind me. I could measure the length of their noses but could not tell you if a single person actually has nostrils. At this point, it’s just an assumption.
Okay, yeah. So, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter…the encyclopedic Facebook, YouTube…the TedX talks… I know. I KNOW. It’s interesting. I KNOW!!! But so am I. And so are you. And we are alive, 3D…unpredictable, exciting, vital.
WILL SOMEONE PLEASE LOOK AT ME?
Just look up, people. I don’t want anything. Just wondering what it feels like to, well, you know, say something. For example, “Hello.” But then again, that is SO UNPREDICTABLE. And, OMG, once it happens, you can’t close that window, hit delete or scroll forward. The RISK is almost too much to bear.
God forbid someone does something really crazy. Like the other day I actually thought I caught someone’s attention – she was so pretty – and I started to move the sides of my mouth upwards towards my eyebrows into a facial expression that used to be commonly used in human greetings to express interest or appreciation – it was called a smile – to acknowledge she, too, existed in this universe on this bus, when I realized her human nature had been hijacked by the same demon that has taken so many. She looked above my head and beyond the horizon, searching for her home planet of Uranus while my smile fell into the appropriate position of your generic plastic doll mouth. I DO NOT SAY HELLO. I DO NOT SPEAK. I DO NOT SMILE. I DO NOT LOOK AT YOU. THIS FACE IS FOR DISPLAY ONLY.
Instead of permitting the relentless sensations of deflation to overtake my otherwise optimistic nature, I have decided to solve the problem. In my universe, anyway.
Henceforth, I am going to achieve lightning fast facial expressions and shoot them at people as any super-hero would use her super-powers to save the world. Smile. Raise eyebrows. Wink. Nod. (Basic super-weapons.) Stick out tongue. Make fish-face. (Reserved for emergencies.) Persist until eye-lock occurs. Upon full engagement, speak. First word: Hello.
I am DONE sitting by idly while eye-to-eye contact become extinct!
Join me in the Society for the Preservation of Eye-to-Eye Contact! We can save humanity. Prevent mental illness! Save sanity! Maybe even save the human species! Maybe even save ourselves!!
All this to say, yes. Eye-to-eye contact validates our very being. Adding a cheery “hello” is not weird, people. It’s wonderful.
And this, too, may be a shocker: Greeting someone is far different than giving someone a LIKE or becoming a follower!
Ah, yes, it is different. It is that beautiful moment when two living beings shine a beam at each other that tells them both I AM HERE, NOW, TOO.
And, yes, even an elevator is fair game when you are a superhero like me. Bring it on.