(Yeah, this was the complete opposite of my first “Foggy Bottom Experience” last night; this is 20+ advocates celebrating handing out over 14,000 leaflets at the Warped Tour concert in MD last summer. I think I’ll have more success when I wear less clothing.)
I was raring to rant (again) about Washingtonians’ rude eye avoidance epidemic when I got home from leafleting last night. Instead, I stewed and journaled and made a delicious dinner smoothie. About three hours later I sent this email to an old friend:
I had to pass this along. I”m leafleting–vegan pamphlets–with a friend @ the Foggy Bottom metro entrance tonight. Tough crowd 😉 People won’t acknowledge your existence in this town (I’m working on changing that) and not just when hawking vegan info. Walking on the sidewalks almost everyone avoids eye contact.
I’m a big smiler, you know, and it’s taking some adjustment to not getting a returned smile or eye contact. New Yorkers are nicer. Seriously. Anyway, as I’m warming to this experience (first of many; I’m hooked) I call out, “You can look at me. I’m human, too,” and “Come on. It hurts my feelings when you won’t look at me,” things like that. With a smile, of course. During this time I strike up a conversation with a homeless guy I hand my dessert to; he’s smoking and I ask him to please stop if he can.
I’ve wanted to say this to smokers I see for so long but haven’t had the nerve. Well, I do tonight! I ask him, another solo guy, four young women and two young men to please stop smoking, telling them about the mass on my left lung and how I never want them to hear a doctor say that to them and would they think about it, please? They look surprised when I ask them to quit, shocked when I tell them about me, then, I don’t know, appreciative? Touched? And you played a role in my finally speaking up about it to complete strangers.
And I understand the eye avoidance. I used to be like that all the time. Embarrassed for some reason, low self-esteem, I’m sure, and geez, how can you smile at a homeless person? Thank goodness for my psych ward stint; completely changed my perspective. Not only one of the best vacations of my life–I mean it–but the most profound. We’re all connected and far more alike than different. The disconnectedness I see daily worries me. It’s scary and sad. And apparently I can only be ignored for so long now before I call people out on it! LOL. Who would’ve thunk it?