The staring contest.
The staring contest.
Whenever friends visit me and catch a train, one of the first things they ask me is “What’s the deal with staring in this city?” It’s in our nature to take interest in one another—be in out of curiosity, shock or disgust. Some humans however, who haven’t quite caught up yet with the #1 rule of urban living (minding your own damn business), take it to a whole new level.
Now that the temperatures are spirit-crushingly low and BVG rides are becoming increasingly inevitable, let’s look at some of the most common types of stares one can encounter on and off Berlin’s public transport network.
Where: public transport (mainly) / supermarkets
Irritation level: 9/10
Just like the British have 100 different words for rain, there’s a multitude of different types of stares one can encounter in Berlin—and without a doubt, this is the most common, and the most annoying one of them. Usually all it takes is getting on a train and minding your own business and some random person will just stare at you blankly and without ever blinking. In such moments you might ask yourself “Why? Why me? Why???” and I appreciate that it’s an inconvenient situation—but let me give you some context: The person who can’t stop staring at you is probably shitfaced. You’re in Berlin, after all. Most likely, they’ve skipped breakfast and washed down acid with a bottle of vodka instead, and your magical aura is giving them MAD technicolour visuals. “Nonsense” you think? Don’t get deceived by the fact that it’s 9am, the starer is a middle-aged mum or dad type and generally seems have their shit together (apart from their piercing stare). THEY ARE FUCKING WASTED. OFF THEIR TITS. There’s no other logical explanation for their complete disregard of social norms. It really costs them all of their composure to pretend they’re functioning human beings. Bear with them, for they haven’t got a clue if their insane trip will ever end.
Where: public transport
Irritation level: 8/10
Without a doubt, this can be an unbelievably creepy stare too. Especially if you’re on the receiving end and have zero interest in the starer. Tbh, I’m somewhat guilty of this one. I mean, we all have tube/U-bahn crushes sometimes, right? We see someone who we find attractive and give them a double-take, or a triple-take, or a quadruple-take. It’s embarrassing, but we can’t help ourselves. With hungry eyes we check the other person out thoroughly and an imaginary conversation ensues.
“Hi, I couldn’t help but notice you and your magnetic personality” they say, and you reply
“Oh thanks, I hear that all the time. I didn’t notice you AT ALL, but it’s certainly nice to meet you”.
They say “This might sound weird, but I think we should make babies. Right now.”
“This is a bit sudden” you reply.
“I know, but I feel this instant connection between us. Don’t you?” they continue.
And just as you’re contemplating your answer, your tube/U-Bahn crush looks up. “Destiny” you whisper, and in that very moment your eyes meet—and the object of your desire rolls theirs and changes train cars. Whoopsies.
Where: public transport / cafés and bars
Irritation level: 10/10
Say, your phone just died, you’re forced to endure other people’s conversations and then suddenly you hear something that’s actually interesting. It’s hard not to listen, right? Also, there are only so many times one can read that poster about donating every single organ for clinical trials. The most human reaction is to eavesdrop, which is totally acceptable. You’re in a public space after all—but don’t eavesdrop and stare at the same time. Be subtle goddammit. Put the headphones back on and pretend you’re still listening to music. And don’t react to whatever they’re saying. Don’t laugh at their jokes and don’t EVER engage in their conversation. Keep on looking at that piece of mystery food on the floor and don’t be a creep.
Where: all places that were cool before people like you gentrified them
Irritation level: 2/10
Every once in a while, we see people who look nothing short of divine. They have the most amazing style, wear colours, clothes or hairstyles that would look ridiculous on everyone else but they manage to look fabulous. You can’t help but acknowledge it by staring at them incessantly. You know that the right thing to do would be to say something like “Oh wow, I really like your outfit” or something else that would make the situation less awkward, but you get so self-conscious that you can’t get a word out and drool onto yourself instead. And just like that, they hover past you, flick their hair and are gone again. You wipe off the saliva from your chin, catch a whiff of their perfume and, of course, they smell divine, too.
Where: all across the city / in your bedroom mirror
Irritation level: 1/10
My all time favourite stare. It’s an honest, humbling stare that makes my heart melt a bit. Just a bit though. The lunatic on day release stare is a stare most people can live with, and the reason for that is simple: We’ve all seen it before—on ourselves. Be it when your mind goes coocoo after having worked nonstop for 12+ hours; or when it’s 1am and you suddenly realise that for the last 20 minutes you’ve been liking every single FB pic of your ex from 2010; or when you’re just having your private little Taxi Driver moment at home. We’ve all been there and these starers are the only ones who deserve a hint of a smile when your eyes meet. Not too much a smile though, you never know what your face might trigger.