by Nick Lang
In the waiting rooms, and on the public transport of this world we all bear witness to the bizarre life of the ‘can’t keep their eyes to themselves-type people’ – a mysterious bunch. These are the people who, unlike the rest of us who if/when we make eye-contact with people either smile, nod or simply politely look at something else, hold your gaze with an entirely blank expression on their face. Even when you have begun to feel a bit freaked out by this behaviour and looked away yourself, you can still see them out of the corner of your eye, with the very same blank expression still held firmly on their face. What exactly do they want? You have already subtly checked that there is no matter protruding from your nostrils, and you checked that there were no remains of your lasagne stuck between your teeth 3 times before you left the house, and you know for a fact that you really aren’t so repugnantly ugly that it would warrant such a shameless display of starage; so what do they want? The only sub-group of the ‘can’t keep their eyes to themselves-type people’ that is more worrying are those who blatantly stare down their nose at those around them with a smug superiority about them – I see one of these people almost every time I go to see the ENT doctors about my fucked-up sinuses. He sits leaning back on his small chair that barely holds the weight of his large superior arse, just looking. He stares at the black people with a horrible conceited half-grin on his face, then he does the same to the Asian people – so I thought I was seeing a pattern forming. But then, suddenly I noticed him doing the same to a young white woman, and then a small white child – so there’s the BNP guy theory out of the window. So as I stare into space contemplating this guy’s motivation, I realise out of the corner of my eye that I can see his whole face… Is he now smugly looking at me? Oh my God, he is! And he has the very same look of abject superiority on his big round face, so I decide to call him on it, and I stare right back. This is the point at which even the more smug of this breed of oddities realise that it may in fact be construed as somewhat rude (even if you are in fact trying to assert your authority, you know when you’ve been busted). Not this guy, he just stares and stares.
Thankfully I was rescued from this not particularly tense stalemate by a nurse who wanted to stick things up his nose – as she would for me soon enough, but I still thought “Hah, that’ll teach you, you staring bastard”. Yet I was still left wondering just what was going though his head as one by one he had asserted his authority on each of us in that waiting room. Me, the old couple, the young and fairly plain looking white lady, the Indian mother and son, the 5 or 6 African people, the Egyptian guy, the white city-worker who looked like the 2 hours he was taking off work would undoubtedly cause the breakdown of the country’s whole economy, and the doctor; none of us were spared the half-closed, smugly self-gratified, and clearly superior gaze of this large and bizarre human being. It remains a mystery to me to this very day. Did he actually outwardly believe that he was indeed a superior specimen of humanity than the rest of us? Or was he simply punched a lot in the face at school? Or indeed did the latter occur because of the former? The unfortunate truth is that we will never really know what goes through the minds of these strange people; but clearly what does not go through their mind is any sense of courtesy, tact, or even human decency. It is for this reason that I think that all people should carry a mirror with them for just such an occasion’ so that when one of these people begins to do what they do best, we can simply stick said mirror to our foreheads, then we could see how long they’d last looking down their noses at themselves…
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.