I noticed something while riding the train between San Jose and San Francisco the other day:
I was one of many passengers on the pre-dawn train, and though I’d been awake for many hours by that point, I was still too groggy to dig directly into my train ride writing time. As I waited for the doors to close, I looked around…and every. Single. Person. On the train had his or her face buried in an iPhone.
It was almost appalling–not a single person was looking out the window at the sun coming up over the mountains, not a single person was making eye contact. Everyone was in the same hunched-over position, with a frown of concentration on his or her face.
And I realized just how disconnected we’ve become by being so connected. It’s so easy to hide behind a tiny screen, and live in other people’s stories while denying the stories of those around us.
Lately, I’ve been making an effort to put down my phone when I’m out on the street. I’ve been making an effort not to spend all of my time in public hiding from the strangers–the people who pass me by.
I’ve decided that I will trigger happy by making eye contact and smiling.
(Not in a creepy way–that never works out for the best.)
Have you ever accidentally looked into someone else’s eyes as you pass each other on the street? There’s a weird, uncanny feeling that comes along with it, and we always rush to avert our eyes. But there’s also a really satisfying feeling that comes along with it, isn’t there? Especially if you don’t deny the connection, and instead just smile back.
(It’s been interesting, trying this on the streets of San Francisco, because there are a handful of people whom I see every day while scootering from the train to my office. And it’s gotten to the point where it’s awkward not to acknowledge one another with a smile. I have actually started to look forward to seeing Beats Headphones Guy, Short Hair Girl, and Hipster on Scooter. I don’t have any idea who they are, but I miss them when I don’t pass them on my way to work now.)
It’s not revolutionary, but it is soul-cleansing. We were made to connect–not with our phones but with our eyes and our smiles and our voices and our bodies…
Quick tangent: I’ve recently started talking to strangers. (Don’t tell my parents–I’m breaking the number one rule in elementary school after “don’t cross the street without looking both ways.” At least I follow that one–which is why they let me have a driver’s license.) But on the train, on the bus, in a cab, in line at Starbucks…wherever I happen to be, I usually end up in a conversation. And I’ve found that people have some damn interesting stories–and they’re always bursting to share them. (Just don’t take offers for candy if you’ll get in their white van. Those are the wrong strangers to listen to….)
So, my bonus happiness trigger is to talk to strangers–get to know their stories, and truly listen to what they have to say. I guarantee that, while you may not always end up in the midst of a scintillating or life-changing conversation, every so often you’ll stumble upon a story–and a person–who affects your day or changes your perspective or moves you to action.
I hope that your days are filled with connections–and I look forward to hearing how you triggered HAPPY this week!