In an attempt to conquer my misanthropic streak I read a self-help book called How to Be a People Magnet : Finding Friends-and Lovers-and Keeping Them for Life. The theory of the book is to make every single person you meet like you and to become your friend, both as a way of networking (you know the type of thing: the man handing you your McDonald's Burger could in ten years be the head of a Hollywood study theory of networking). But apparently above and beyond making tons of friends, being liked will make you feel very good about yourself. Also you will be making the world a better place by making eye contact with everyone you meet. The author, Leil Lowndes, also encourages brushing your arm against a store clerk or street sweeper, to signal that you think they are your equal and that they are not just an automaton who takes your cash or cleans your car. "This will create a deep personal bond between you and will make the other person's day." (not a direct quote but you get the gist)
Now there was no way I was going to brush against any common or garden man on the street but I was prepared to give her theories a whirl. So, yesterday I was in Barnes and Noble when this guy comes into Starbucks and sits down and without buying anything from Starbucks, takes out four pieces of sliced bread from a plastic bag plus some ham, and starts to make sandwiches. I decide to make eye contact with him to signal: "I don't look down on you, in fact I respect the fact that you are making your own sandwiches for ten cents a pop rather than shelling out $7 to buy them at Starbucks."
I am not entirely sure that the man got that signal because a few minutes later, while I was at the magazine rack reading a copy of UK Cosmopolitan (Headline: Dannii Minogue would give everything up for the right man), Sandwich Man comes up to me and, addressing my rack says:
"I see you're a big Vogue reader."
Me: "It's actually Cosmopolitan. I don't read Vogue because its 90%adverts."
Sandwich Man: "I love Vogue too. In fact I know a guy who does the pictures for it."
I smile ineffectually.
"I love her." He jabs his finger at some TV magazine at an actress I have never seen before. "Do you watch her show. It's amazing isn't it?"
"I'm afraid I don't," I say, before scuttling off.
What I learnt from the experience was that I don't want to be a people magnet and that I don't need to be liked by everyone. I need to be liked by my five best friends ... and that's it.
But by all means try it. Try making eye contact with strangers and tell me what the results are. I hope you get a glowy happy feeling from it but I didn't.