Bus #10, DTLA, Morning
I'm sitting in the back of the bus on the right side. An older, tall black man, dressed business casual, with a short goatie, bald head, and rectangular glasses boards the bus and sits in the window seat in front of me. This is my man. I wait for a while, then move one seat over, so now I'm on his left side and behind him. I lean forward and
Me: "Excuse me."
"I have a request."
"Will you make eye contact with me for 60 seconds?"
His brow furrows, he looks away and then back at me.
"No one's ever asked me this before."
"Is this for something?"
Me: "Yeah, it's a project."
Me: "I'll tell you after."
Him: "This is strange."
He decides to do it anyway.
He turns in his seat to face me more directly and I start the timer.
I like his eye contact. But we only make it about five seconds when he looks away and says
Him: "I can't do it."
Me: "That's OK." I smile. "Want to try again?"
Me: "No problem."
"Thanks for giving it a try."
"I'm going to give you this for doing it with me."
I hand him a card. He takes it and looks closely at the card.
Me: "That's my eye."
He looks closely at me. I smile.
Me: "Doing this gets me out of my comfort zone. It gets me to talk with people who I otherwise wouldn't know what to say to them. It's an unusual thing. Making eye contact is vulnerable and intimate, especially with strangers. It's unusual and people aren't used to it. Many people don't even do this with their significant others for 60 seconds without talking. I like to see, just, how people react, if they'll do it. And, surprisingly, most people do it!"
Me: "May I use your first name and photograph on my blog where I write about this?"
Me: "Not even first name?"
Cedric: "Well... First name is OK."
"Would the photograph make you uncomfortable?"
Cedric: "Yeah, I think so."
Me: "OK, no problem."
I ask him what he's up to today. He's going to see his doctor. We talk for a little while about flu shots. He asks me what I do, and I tell him I'm a programmer. I tell him that I'm often in front of the computer all day, not talking to anyone, and this practice gets me talking to people. He smiles and seems to like that. He asks me if my supervisor knows that I take time from work to do this. I tell him that I am my own boss, so, "Yes, my supervisor knows. He's sitting right here." We both think that's funny.
My stop is coming up. I pick up my backpack and wish Cedric a happy and healthy day as I exit the bus.