It was time to order and ordering, for me, is usually done in a robotic manner as whatever I am ordering I've usually ordered 1,000 times. However, my mom was also with me and she started a conversation with the waitress about the manicotti, if it had been brought back, and if anyone else has tried to order it. This line of conversation was highly unexpected and I had no idea how to react to it and whether or not I would have to say anything. The end result was this picture (I am always trying to find ways to show of my art "talent":
This is the perfect point of view photos, but after 20 minutes of searching it was the best one I could find, and for the record this isn't an Olive Garden. In the picture my mom would be he person in the center of the photo and the waitress would be the one to the right. During the conversation that the two of them had my eyes followed the trail of the red line and became fixated on the corner of the room. Try as I did there was no breaking away my eyes from the corner.
Why was I doing this? I quickly went into analyzing the situation and my first thought was that this conversation wasn't the normal progression of ordering. "That was the simple answer" I thought to myself and then I did some more mental digging and realized that I was looking at the least active point in space. If I were to have looked anywhere else I would've noticed cars driving by outside, other people eating, and the waiters/waitresses walking back and forth. In my environment I was looking at the most consistent, bland, and safe place in space.
But still, why was I doing this? With the unpredictability of the conversation going on I had a whirlwind of emotions and fear. Yes, I said fear because what is not known is feared and I had no ability to predict what was next. I needed to control my emotions as well as a way to drown out the environment. On top of that, from where I was looking, I had just enough peripheral vision to keep a bead on my mom and the waitress. And even still, by minimizing my input, I was better able to process what was going on. It's moments like this that I feel trapped the most. Most of the time it can happen and I won't realize it until after the fact like when it occurred before a presentation I had last night.
The fixed gaze I have is one of my few defense mechanisms I have when my environment turns unpredictable. The odd thing I thought of on that last sentence is that we do live in an unpredictable world, but most of the time this is used to describe dangerous events like weather and other disasters. For me, I see unpredictable as those times when a conversation doesn't go the way I thought it would, or ordering lunch at the Olive Garden. Because of all that, by looking at that fixed point, is my way to bring order to myself and to minimize the input coming in because I am at my limit.
All in all I'd say I was looking up at the corner for about 30 seconds, but it seemed much longer. Talking to my mom that night on the way back to Indianapolis she said that she noticed that I didn't handle the situation well and noticed the eye paralysis, as she stated it, that I had.
Truly, in those situations, I can't deviate my eyes to any other point in space. Moving forward I hope to incorporate this story into my presentations because, if my mom didn't know me, she may of thought I was trying to be rude or perhaps I was trying to scoff at her conversation. Also, how did the waitress perceive my behavior? I wasn't trying to be rude, I wasn't trying to make a scene, I was simply trying to maintain control of the storm going on within me. This is where awareness and understanding is key. We should encourage eye contact, but if the timing is wrong you quite simply aren't going to get it. I think to situations in schools this might take place. In any event I'm glad I had the self-awareness at the time to look as to why I was doing this and the ability to translate all the meanings.