One of my things for this year is working on a bad habit I have, I call it Teflon eye-contact which I think is pretty self-explanatory, and it bugs the hell out of me when I catch myself doing it... which is quite a lot. I'm told that back in The Beginning, tinyPatrick was a brightly inquisitive, friendly little person, remembered most for his grin. A socially quite adventurous toddler who looked and smiled at everything and everyone... to the point where fustily socialised grown-up doctors wondered if there might not be something wrong with him (there wasn't, he was just happy.)

Somewhere along the way from there to here, in the business of growing up and getting socialised myself, I withdrew a bit more than I think I probably meant to: I spent more of 1988 to 1998 looking at paving slabs than I did looking people in the eye - I realise that as a grown up it's inappropriate for me to reprise that same kind of wide-eyed happy wonderment (at least on the outside) but I still feel that the ideal spot on the continuum (I think) is somewhere a bit closer back to tinyPatrick's approach than I've managed to get as yet.

Anyway that's all by way of a preamble to a story about me being a doofus (hence the title) Last night Anita and I did our usual weekly trip to the supermarket, which incidentally are a great example of why I love living with my friend - we have fun doing the shopping, not the kind of fun you'd keep going back for if the fridge magically stocked itself, sure, but it's certainly never a chore. So while we were walking from one aisle to another talking happy rubbish to each other and laughing as usual I realised that I was looking right at the (really very attractive) security guard who was walking towards us, and by the time I'd realised it, it was abundantly clear that he had too.

As a rule attracting the attention of security guards in shops is one of those things you know you just don't do: they instill that same vague sense that you're going to get into trouble (in spite of having done nothing wrong of course,) as a police car in the rearview mirror does: on the whole we keep our heads instinctively down and just hope they pass us by... and I hadn't, I'd let my guard down (so to speak).

At about this point, when part of my brain was slapping itself on the forehead and muttering "stupid, stupid" while picturing our getting followed about the store and watched suspiciously for the next half hour, some new unconscious reflex I hadn't realised I'd developed kicked in - instead of looking quickly away (as I expected myself to) I held his gaze and smiled quite genuinely at him (which was very easy) and to my (and, I think, his) mild amazement he smiled back just as warmly.

You know that bit in the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (I forget if it's in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish or Life, the Universe and Everything) the bit where Arthur Dent discovers that he can fly, but only if he doesn't realise that he's doing it? well it turns out that something remarkably similar happens when you notice yourself casually pulling off eye contact with a cute security guard, and of course this is where my damned Teflon thing kicked in: having made eye contact I looked away. The moment (such as it was) was gone.

Of course he was just smiling. I was just smiling. There wasn't anywhere else for that little interchange to go, unless we lived in my imagination, (which is a fun place to visit, it's just harder to keep the fridge stocked there) but sometimes when that happens there might be more to it mightn't there? there might be a new friend to be made at the very least, and so now I've noticed this new reflex to be engagingly friendly, the old shy reflex bugs me even more than it already did.



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