When you live in New York, it’s easy to get swept up in the city’s relentless pace and look straight ahead when you’re walking around. Not too long ago, I decided to open my eyes and find out what —and who--I might be missing along the way.
The impetus for my visual experiment was a dating advice book that suggested saying hello to at least three random men every day. Even for an outgoing gal like me, this felt too brazen so I opted instead to just smile at selected passersby.
As I attempted to make eye contact with some local male residents, I noticed for the first time just how radical a concept this is in the Big Apple. While I will always maintain that New Yorkers are more neighborly than we’re given credit for, the fact is most of us walk around with an intentionally unapproachable air. In fact, the inscrutable poker face is something of an art here. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a genuine smile is sometimes all it takes to elicit the same in return.
For example, during a ride on the downtown 6 train, I smiled at a guy sitting across from me. When I exited the train a few minutes later, he jumped off the train and handed me his number before getting back on the train to his final destination.
A couple of days later, I was sitting in a cab in traffic when a commercial van pulled up beside me. I smiled at the adorable driver, James, who proceeded to jump out in the middle of the street and ask me for my number. This led to a delightful evening at Kemia, a sensual Moroccan lounge near Hell’s Kitchen with low lighting, rose petals on the floor and a killer cocktail menu.
Though my date with James ended up being a one-shot deal (he commutes from the Poconos and is “separated”), I’ve heard several stories of long-term love that resulted simply from paying attention to what’s right in front of you. As a college student, my journalist friend Robert went into a Roy Rogers and looked up to find he had a lot in common with waitress Christine. The conversation Robert and Christine began that night has stretched into more than twenty years of marriage and raising a family together. Who knew fast food could be so romantic?
When you keep your eyes open, you never know where even the simplest of journeys can take you.
A friendly smile doesn’t hurt either.