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After five years of developing a wide repertoire of techniques, Daniel Gherkin will be leaving UW-Eau Claire with “unmatched” skill in avoiding eye contact while walking.
Students said his prowess is well-known both on and off campus.
“Dan? Yeah, I’ve never made eye contact with him on a sidewalk, not once,” Jessica Powell, a junior studying math said. “Not even on Water Street after he’s had a few drinks. It’s like his gaze slides right past the eyes.”
Gherkin, who will be graduating with a degree in communications, said he’s been developing eye-contact avoidance techniques since his first day on campus.
“My first day here, walking to class, I was like, ‘the worst thing I can imagine in this moment is to accidentally look into the eyes of a stranger,’” he said. “Ever since then I’ve been developing an arsenal of evasion techniques.”
He said he has a “three-pronged approach” to the multifaceted problem of making eye contact with people he doesn’t know, or worse, people he only kind of knows.
While walking past people at locations such as hallways or sidewalks, he frequently pretends to have urgent business looking at his phone.
“The phone foil is most effective when it’s only one person you’re trying to avoid making eye contact with,” Gherkin said. “If there are a bunch of people it can get difficult to execute properly because you have to be looking at your phone for, like, an unsafe amount of time.”
Gherkin said he ran into one “too many trash cans” while implementing the phone technique in scenarios with more than one or two people, so he developed a second approach.
His second of three approaches is a technique in which Gherkin looks right past a person’s eyes, pretending his gaze is as slippery as water, he said.
“This took years of refinement,” Gherkin said. “If you’re walking from, say, Davies to Centennial, you keep your head up and just look anywhere in the facial region except the eyes.”
After years of practice and modification, Gherkin developed his third method. While pulling out his final avoidance trick, Gherkin stares straight ahead.
“I decided to call it ‘The Blinders’ because it’s like how a horse has blinders so it can’t look anywhere but straight ahead,” he said. “No side-to-side dilly-dally.”
Powell said she’s tried to get Gherkin’s attention when in passing numerous times, with “a zero percent success rate. The man is good.”
Gherkin said his years of learning eye-contact avoidance will be “supremely helpful” in his future.
“Think of public transport. The last thing you want to do is look in someone’s eyes,” he said. “The supermarket, walking your dog, going for a run, the list goes on.”