The other day on the tube, I caught a man staring at the scarf wrapped around my neck. So I immediately I started staring back – at his shoes, neatly wrapped around his feet. I soon regretted choosing his shoes as it meant I would have to break my stare to check if he was still staring at my scarf. Of course this would have made him the automatic winner.
If I’d have been more vigilant and caught him quicker, I could have stolen his glance and trapped it mid-air with my stare so he couldn’t have moved his eyes anywhere else. This is black-belt stuff. I doubt I’ll ever make it to this level, though I’ve been in the grip of a caught stolen glance often enough.
There was a chance he didn’t know we were in the game. It’s hard to spot a careless gaze from a professional stare in the first instance. I’d have had to look in his eyes to check though. It takes years to stare into another person’s eyes, find something and leave before they find something in your eyes first. If they find your thing first, you’re screwed. Of course if they’re just a careless gazer, you can easily get even, but if they don’t know the rules, it doesn’t really count.
Anyway, as I was staring at his shoes, I began to wonder if he was actually staring at what was on my scarf. I had just been enthusiastically eating some seeds by the handful, and could be covered in them, which would indeed be something to stare at. I couldn’t show any weakness by moving my hand to the ‘stare area’, so I had to wait it out.
I then noticed in my periphery a woman next to me had started to stare at his shoes too. A two person attack is hard to defend. I tried to let her know I was grateful for the backup by flaring my nostrils and staring a bit harder. I think she understood.
I was staring so hard, I realised I’d stopped breathing and was on the verge of passing out, but at the last minute, I was saved. Just before my stop, a man with two King Charles Spaniels stepped on board and walked through the carriage, breaking all stares and rendering the game officially over. No winners, no losers. The woman and I shared a small smile, knowing we’d done our best.
Afterwards I was mortified and relieved to find that I had indeed left quite a train of seeds on my scarf – relieved because I was still a bit peckish.
I gave the man a sly grin as I scooped them up and popped them into my mouth, stepping triumphantly off the tube – as if eating the seeds he’d been staring at was what I’d intended all along. He didn’t even notice though, and was already stuck into taking on both the dogs. What a pro.