Where do you look when you pass people?

It is one of the age-old unanswerable questions, like “What is the sound of one hand clapping” and “If you ate a plate of pasta and a plate of anti-pasta, would they cancel each other out?”


In this situation, I usually loudly blurt something like “Hey! Been shoppin’??” and then try and keep from punching myself in my stupid face for the next few blocks.

Where do you look when you’re passing someone on the street?

I think I’ve tried everything. Nothing feels quite right.

The Polite “Hey”

The polite thing to do is to say “hi” and nod. Right? But when? You can see the person coming a block away. You need to catch their eye, but you don’t want to do it too early, because then you’ve said “hi” and you’re still walking towards each other which is a nightmare. Stephen King could write a 600 page novel about that moment. So what do you do until they’re the perfect distance away and saying “hi” ends about the time you pass?

This predicament has put me in a situation where myself and the stranger end up in an awkward game of eye tag: “Look…aaah! They’re looking, too soon! Look away! … Ok now look – no not yet! LOOK AWAY!” for a full minute before we are close enough to allow our eyes to meet for a verbal greeting. That is a lot of stress for running to Subway for lunch.

And “hi” seems intimate. I always say “hey” instead. But then that seems kinda slangy, like next I’m going to go in for the fist bump or add “What up, playah?” And if we fist bump, should I explode it? Or just do it straight? So many questions…

The “Oh My Phone is Ringing”

I spot a person coming toward me, so I reach into my bag and pretend to answer my phone. Clearly, my conversation is so engrossing that it is all I can do to watch where I’m walking and talk. I can’t possibly make eye contact and they can’t fault me for that.  And as they pass I always blurt out something stupid like “… right, that’s what I was saying…” or “…too many people wear yellow” to make it seem more real.  I’m sure my face turns bright red because I’m terrified they’re going to grab the phone from me and discover I’m lying and I’ll be arrested. I’m not sure what division of the police handles these sorts of things but I know they exist.

Not to mention the fact that I’m also performing some weird one-act play for a person I’ll never see again. On a top ten checklist of “Signs You Might Be Psychotic” that is probably, like, six.

The “Wow, that is Super Interesting, What is That?”

I’ll sometimes find something nearby or across the street and pretend to be super interested in it. Why I think someone should believe that I find a planter or a yield sign so engrossing that I didn’t even notice them walking towards me, I do not know. I’ve had people do that to me, and as they pass I always think, “Dick.'”

Add to all these possibilities the fact that I’ve been thinking about all these possibilities during my entire approach, that when I do finally grunt “Hey” and try and offer a little smile, I’m so overwhelming self conscious that my face jerks and twitches. The smile ends up looking like I’ve just suffered a sharp gas pain. Then I walk the rest of the block thinking about how that person is going to go home and tell his wife how a woman he passed on the street was in the middle of having a mini-stroke. Then he’ll be up all night, wondering if he should have called 911 and if it was morally wrong not to chase me down and offer help… He’ll start to question himself and become anxiety ridden and morose, his wife will leave him… I’ve just destroyed that man’s life.

So what do I do? What do you do? Are you looking at me? Should I look away? Is it too soon?



Thank you to all the people who bought my dark-yet-funny/mystery/romance urban fantasy novel Angeli: The Pirate, the Angel & the Irishman and left such wonderful reviews! Things like: 

“not only is Amy Vansant funny, she also has created a very clever romance… …an unnervingly funny and steamy story.”


“This was a fun and fast book, with enough action, comedy, and tense romance to keep me turning the pages well past my bed time (and well into dawn). “


“a novel that delivers everything you’d want in a contemporary fantasy/mystery story and more. It’s really unlike any novel I’ve read, with elements of contemporary-urban fantasy, mystery, and romance.”


“Amy, where can I send you a check for million dollars? It is the only way I can thank you for the joy Angeli has brought to my life”

Ok I made up that last one.

REMEMBER: Tweet me @AmyVansant that you bought Angeli: The Pirate, the Angel & the Irishman or the Moms are Nuts humor anthology or even my older collection of humor from my blog Kid-Free Living and I will publicly tweet you a totally free gushing compliment like Alicia got here:

You’re so awesome Cinderella admitted it was your slipper & you were like “it’s cool, you can use it.” bought Angeli

Amy Vansant
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9 Responses

  1. Stef


    Ahh, too funny. I never look at people OR say anything, on the street. Never ever. It’s kind of like one of my rules of life–do not make eye contact with strangers. I just look sort of down and away vaguely, as if they aren’t there. Hence I never know if they’ve been staring at ME the whole minute of walking towards each other, but then again, I think I’d rather not know…

    What I have trouble with, where I live, is that one minute of the day when I decide to pop out to the road to get the mail (on our super-quiet country road), in my completely frumpy *hanging out by myself* outfit and bare feet…and it’s the exact moment someone is walking or jogging or riding a horse past our yard. So I cover it by doing something stupid like…shade my eyes and look down the road like I’m looking for someone, then GO BACK INSIDE and wait for the them to get past. Or, I will glance around on the deck like I’ve misplaced a cat food bowl or something, then close the door. gahhh


    • Amy Vansant

      Oh I definitely know that Murphy’s Law. EVERY time I try to scamper out in PJs to get the paper or mail (I work at home so… ) my neighbors suddenly come pouring out of their homes like lemmings…


  2. Katie

    I do the same as Stef – look down/away and pretend they’re not there. Although this has become rather awkward with the boy I pass EVERY DAY when walking to work. If you could count time spent walking past each other in a 10ft radius as “spending time with someone”, I should be closer to this boy than my Grandma by now. Instead, I pretend I need to look the other way/fix my hair/check my MP3 player every. single. day. xxx


    • Amy Vansant

      At this point you should go with my totally awkward joke mode and start saying “You again! Ha!” or “We have to stop meeting like this!” Or say something inexplicable every day, that would be funny.
      Monday: What up, G?
      Tuesday: That Putin is cray cray, huh?
      Wed: It takes 25 minutes to cook a whole 2lb chicken in a pressure cooker!


  3. Sarcastic Ninja

    I tend to just smile awkwardly for a while and then pretend I don’t speak English.

    This is a test – my comments on the last couple of entries don’t seem to have successfully posted…


  4. Melissa Marie

    I have the pleasure of working in a cubicle. A few weeks ago, I was visiting a new office and sitting in a cubicle with very short walls facing a rather busy hallway. This distraction caused me to look up every time someone walked by. On one single day, this fine coworker of mine, who I have never seen before or since, walked by at least 8 times. Each time he would walk by I would look up and he would look at me. We would both look away.

    To be clear. This was NOT flirting.

    After pass #5 he actually stopped to apologize for looking over and I apologized for looking up. And then it happened again. And again. And again.

    I’m pretty sure he quit.

    Anyway, I’m that person who when someone says “hi” to me while passing it seems to take 15 seconds to recognize that the appropriate response is something other than total silence and then it’s too late to not be weirder.


  5. Raymond

    I saw some episode of Dateline or 20/20 once where this teenage girl lived in some pretty rough neighbourhood, and when she had to come home late at night on the bus her mom told her to just act crazy so no one would bother her. That’s what I do. Put up my hoodie, do the “crack addict nose rub,” and start mumbling, “Isn’t that right governor?”

    I’ve never made eye contact with anyone since. 😉



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