Monday, January 7, 2008

Staring in America V. Staring in Pakistan

Yes you read that correctly we will be talking about staring today. Dictionary.com defines the act of staring as follows:

To gaze fixedly and intently, esp. with the eyes wide open.

In American society children are taught not to stare because it’s impolite. And for the most part when you’re out in public people don’t stare at each other and go about their business. Children belonging to well to do families in Pakistan are also taught the same lesson and when they go out in public they don’t stare at people either.

Apparently the other half of society (read, have nots) didn’t get the memo. These poor souls don’t have much to occupy their minds so they while away their time on street corners. When a person that they find fascinating passes by they stare and stare and stare and then stare some more. To them a fascinating person is anybody with a nice car, nice clothes, jewelry, and cell phones. Unfortunately they don’t have those things and wonder what its like to own these items. So when they see someone use these things they can’t get enough of it.

In fact a group of them will gather and watch you make a phone call. They’ll be talking about you and pointing out things to each other. Things like the color of your phone’s cover, the sounds it makes or the cost of that particular set are popular topics. Just like we (read, haves) would talk about a TV show amongst ourselves. I can see where they are coming from but the thing is…THEY MAKE ME SO DAMN UNCOMFORTABLE!!!

I mean seriously they freak me out when they do that. I don’t know what their attentions are, maybe they’re scoping me out for a mugging or worse. I talked to people about this staring phenomenon and they say that it’s a harmless nuisance. So one day as I was walking towards my office in my work clothes I decided to engage one of these staring drones. I stared right into his eyes and he stared right back I continued walking forward and he continued staring. He began to swivel his head to maintain a good lock on me after a complete 180 degree rotation he had to stop staring less he snap his neck.

I decided to take this engagement to the next level I found myself locked in the gaze of another individual. I stared he stared I moved forward he swiveled neck I stopped and gestured “What the hell?!” he shrugs his shoulder “nothing just saying hi”. At times like this Muslims use the lament, estagfurallah (I seek God’s forgiveness).

This is not to say that staring doesn’t occur in America. When I was a child I found myself transfixed by a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. In my mind I could hear myself saying, “Don’t stare! Don’t stare! Don’t stare!” But I couldn’t help myself I never so a person in that condition before. A family member of the quadriplegic came up to me and told me to skedaddle.

So you see society corrected my behavior and I was more conscious of whether or not I was staring. There is no such check amongst the poor people of Pakistan, because they don’t think they are doing anything wrong. Of course people in America do partake in the subtle glance or the occasional double take. But never have I seen the wide-eyed drone like stares that occur in this part of the world.
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