During the Covid-19 thing, many of us have been doing lots of walking. In my case I run and I walk. I’ve always noticed that in Seattle, people do not like making eye contact. If you somehow, accidentally lock eyes with someone, everything seems to stop, and somewhere in your head there is a little scream that gets let out.
“Oh my God!” it yelps, “I just made eye contact with that person. Look away!”
This of course happens everywhere, but it especially happens when out on a walk. Person after person exhibits this behavior. Women especially look down and furrow their brows. Men will often look away, but they’re more likely if the eye contact is sustained, to go all Travis Bickle.
“You talkin’ to me?”
Now I’m not an especially friendly person, OK. I am not a “people person.” I regard people as being somewhat similar to animals in a zoo, something interesting but at a distance and safely behind glass.
But c’mon folks. Really.
This Seattle eye contact freak out came home to me when I was in Albuquerque for extended periods of time over the last year. People in Albuquerque smile and wave. Men do it. Women do it. Old and young, walking, running, driving, and anytime you pass people and make eye contact, they will wave. Almost every single time.
I don’t remember the avoid, look down, and furrow response. And I never got the Travis Bickle.
And now I have Dillon Francis’ video for his song Go Off. I can’t stop thinking about it, especially the opening sequence.
This little exchange, the earnest smile, the little wave, and the indigent disapprobation and rejection, sums up Seattle for me. I haven’t found the courage yet, but while I am walking around, I want to give that little wave.
I’m not sure what Dillon Francis’ point is. But the way I read this video is that at some point you just cut loose, and go off.
Ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it
Tell me I ain’t got no chance, I say screw it (Screw you)
Lookin’ at me funny like, “Fuck you doin'”? (Fuck you mean, ooh)
I tell them, “Back up back up ’cause I’m ’bout to go off”
As far as social criticism goes, I find the video to be perfect. It’s silly when people are so stiff that a simple acknowledgment of eye contact with a smile, a nod, or a wave is not possible, or when making that kind of connection is perceived as, well, going off and doing a stupid dance. It’s a sad thing. But it’s also hilarious.
And I haven’t had the courage yet, but when I am out walking, and see some one coming the opposite way, I wan’t so much to make that little wave and just watch the person’s eyes get wide as that voice screams inside their head.