Eye Contact and the Ghost of Mario III

Recently, as part of a personal experiment, I have been making more eye contact with other people both on and off a bicycle.

I have always been a quiet withdrawn person, so I thought that if I loosened up a bit, good things would come to me.

This has been true.

However, one unintended side-effect to this experiment has been my being less ashamed of being on the road.

Due to decades of social conditioning, many of us believe, in the core of our being that bicycles do not belong on the road.

Even those of us who commute daily, sometimes have this belief inside which Forester called Cycling Inferiority Syndrome or something. Though I don’t subscribe to his VC ideas, this is one notion that was a great his great insights.

This feeling, and my inherent shyness, made me feel completely responsible for not getting hit and it made me a weaker rider.

Now, since I am making so much eye contact, I don’t feel so ashamed to ride. I also notice that when I make eye contact, the drivers act much better.

Thus, I feel like I am in Super Mario Bros 3 where the ghosts follow Mario around. The only way to get them to stop is to face them. I, too, have a better feeling about traffic when I look, literally, at their faces, through their windshields.

In general, motorists are in a bubble, which is familiar to them, which makes them often forget that they are moving through public space. This creates a rage in them because it’s OK to be angry at home, but not in public, but they ARE at home, in a sense.

When you look the motorist in the eye, this slices through their illusion of privacy. They often drive better.

Now, I am experimenting with looking behind me at the passing motorists, when I can. They often drive better, too. However, there are often intersections where there are people making a left in front of me, a can on my right hanging on the edge of the intersection like a chad in a Florida voting machine, and cars passing on the left. When I look at one of them, they behave, but as soon as I turn my back? Well, you have to play Mario 3 and get to the ghost level.

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3 Responses to “Eye Contact and the Ghost of Mario III”

  1. Aaron Garland Says:

    You kind of lost me with the Mario Brothers analogy, but you are right on with your insights into eye contact. You explain why this works very well.

    This is a skill taught in the 101 class. I will have to use your explanation.

    • fredollinger Says:

      Thanks. I’m sure the children you teach will not get this analogy from an ancient, 8-bit video game. Perhaps I should play Mario 3D to figure out a better analogy? I think that Mario looks cool in 2D, but stupid in 3D. 🙂

  2. sunny Says:

    Love it! your so right i’m so going to do this i reckon it would work!
    Love the Mario Analogy too! lol funny.. i can see how this would work i know if i were driving and a cyclist looked at me i’d act right lol
    #justsaying

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