The Art of Looking Through People

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Summer in D.C.

Surely, people are not born wholly apathetic. Right? This wasn’t an issue back home – acting like people weren’t there in order to simply go about the day. I pass as many as ten homeless people a day, sometimes more. “Any change?” On a good day, yeah, but if I were to give every homeless person I saw a dollar, I’d be fucking homeless too. *kanye shrug*

So how does one protect themselves from bankruptcy? Apathy, it appears. No doubt, it breaks my heart a little every time I quickly divert my eyes from someone looking to collect some change. But I mean shit, I’m in no position to help.

Since I used to drive everywhere, I’m not used to people walking toward me. I’m not used to walking, period – unless it’s purely for exercise – but that’s neither here nor there. Generally when people walk toward me, I instinctively make eye contact but to do that here is to potentially invite unwanted attention to yourself. It’s best to look through people and not at them.

I went to NYC a couple weeks back to meet with a professor. As I’m trying to navigate Port Authority to get to my bus, I made the fatal error. I locked eyes with this big, black dude with locs and a beard. My mans was locked and loaded with the sales pitch. Evidently, he was an exotic dancer looking for clients. “For fifty bucks, I can dance for you and all ya friends.” I shit you not.

My naive ass stood there and listened too because I was told it was rude to walk away from someone when they’re talking. That rule doesn’t apply here.

I declined. I calmly said, “Sorry, I gotta pass, dude” and I turned to walk away. “I respect the hustle, though,” I said over my shoulder. That made him laugh and he said, “Iite, lil mamma, be easy.” It’s a funny story now but it could’ve been avoided.

But generally, people are nice in face to face interactions. Pleasant, even. That leads me to believe there’s a switch that people have developed and I need to do the same. Not wholly apathetic, just selective.


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