Eye to Eye
I went to see this movie the other night. I didn’t even realize it was coming out. I was just walking down the arcade downtown, and I saw a movie poster. I recognized the actor right away, but I had no idea he had a movie coming out. So naturally, I went and checked the times, so I could come back and see it within the next couple of days. It was already pretty late, and there weren’t any more shows that evening.
So the next day come around and I go down to see this movie. While I was waiting in line, I saw somebody that I sort of recognized, but wasn’t sure where I knew her from. I could tell she felt he same way. We were waiting in one of those lines that snakes around, kind of like an amusement park. You are always standing next to different people as the line moves around.
So we had just turned our opposite corners, and started moving closer to each other. This was really weird, because both of us were trying to study each other, but only through our respective peripheral visions. I was kind of afraid that if our eyes, met and she showed recognition for who I was, and I hadn’t figured out who she was yet, it would be embarrassing. I suspect that she was doing the same thing.
It’s kind of hard to describe. We were both looking kind of in each other’s direction, but not quite at each other. But we kept moving closer and closer to each other. I started to panic, what if she said my name, but I didn’t know hers? What if she knew who I was, and I ignored her, but then saw her again the next day somewhere, like at the cleaners, or some place I shop every day?
I remember once when I was in college, I was taking this class in anthropology. It was cool because of the class; we got in free to the local zoo anytime we wanted. All we had to do was show our student ID, and mention the professor’s name. And the zoo wasn’t any small town zoo with a bunch of animals that were kicked out of other zoos for bad behavior. This was actually a world-renowned zoo, with high profile animals like special pandas and stuff.
So anyway, one lecture, this professor was telling us how intricate the facial expressions of chimpanzees are. And also how similar they are to humans. He was explaining that the human tendency to smile is somehow related, to chimps baring of their teeth to both show aggression, and to show passive submission. I don’t remember exactly how it works, but the facial expressions, at least in chimps, for aggression are only slightly different from happy submission.
He told us if we wanted to have some fun with the chimps, to get as close as we can to the cage possible, and pick one, and just stare at it. After a while he or she will realize that some goofball human is staring at it, and see what’s up. After a while, they will take it as a sign of aggression, and start staring back. If you are lucky, you can get into a staring contest with a chimp. If that happens, wait a few minutes of staring, and then bare your teeth. The chimp will most likely get super angry and jump around like he wants to kill you or something.
So after I heard that, I went straight to the zoo, and went right to the chimps. I found a couple and stared at them, but I couldn’t get anybody to stare back. I tired for a while, and did get a bunch of glances, but no takers for a deadly stare down contest. Maybe they weren’t in the mood, or maybe somebody tipped them off that the professor of anthropology was sending troublemakers to mess with them.
When I reported my findings, he said that’s not unusual. Chimps have to be ready to stare somebody down, and there are plenty of factors that go into it. Generally speaking, if they don’t feel like they are in competition for anything, like food or girl chimps or something, they won’t likely get angry very easily. I guess in the zoo they try to keep the chimps happy.
But he went on to explain that eye contact is a touch thing. Even human it evokes some deeply subconscious and long evolved fears of conflict. In the wild, eye contact meant one thing, and one thing only:
He also mentioned some psychological study that showed if two humans are looking at each other eye to eye for more than thirty seconds, they are either fighting, or thinking about fighting, (or at the very least feeling some kind of aggressive competition), or the opposite either engaged in sex, thinking about sex, or at the very least having sexual feelings.
I’ve read from other sources, that if a guy locks eyes with a woman, and she holds eye contact for more than a few seconds, she is a highly sexual individual. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but if you’re a guy, try and see if you can hold eye contact with a female stranger for more than a few seconds. It can be interesting, to say the least.
And this is the weird part, or the cool part. Just as moved up so we were both next to each other line, we both did our best to shift our gazes so we were looking at each other, and throw our best “Oh, hey! How’s it going,” but right when we did so, we both realized who each other was at the same time. It turned out to be more like “Oh Hey! (fake) how’s itâ€¦OH! Hey! (real) How’s it going!” Turns out we donâ€™t know each other by name, just that she’ s a waitress at a coffee shop that I go to sometimes.
Once we got that out of the way, I was able to enjoy the movie. Which turned out to be pretty good.