Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Look

It's obvious to almost every visitor to New York City. No one looks at each other here. People stare straight ahead as if on a mission to save the world. You don't make eye contact, a blank stare covers your face. What, there is a person dancing and singing "I Will Survive" off key on the subway? Nope, doesn't matter. People aren't staring or smiling or glaring or even acknowledging that poor singing fool. Nope. Blank stare. How? Why?

It took me awhile to figure out this enigma too. When I first moved here, I just smiled away at people. I said "good morning, have a great day." This is good in theory but can really be a problem at such a high volume. People start to look at you like you are a bit of a happy go lucky crazy person. The kicker was when an older man on the subway saw my friendly face and took that to mean it was ok for him to give me his business card and ask me to coffee. So...I decided to just follow suite and avoid contact.

Even though I have known about this social norm for awhile, I realized another extreme of it recently. Not only do the people not look at each other, the dogs have followed in their footsteps. I am in a bit of a dog obsessed stage right now, so when I go running in Riverside Park, I try to engage the doggies. I have had little success. I run by, beaming away, and they stare straight ahead. Only the unconditioned puppies will engage, thank goodness for them.

When I go home to Texas, I sometimes wonder why people are smiling at me? Then I remember that people from the south are so cheerful and I really miss that in NY. Even this week when I returned from Virginia, after a week at smiling, I momentarily forgot to put my "NY face" on. It's back, but I try to break out a smile every once in while, just to keep everyone on their toes.

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