03/02/2013: "Master of redirection"
Good thing this is all in fun.
Have a look at this video, then come back and we'll talk.
OK, you're back! What did you think of the video? Pretty amazing, isn't it!
So what is it he's doing? He's not only practicing very good sleight of hand, but also (and mostly) using redirection and his knowledge of how people interact, to ooh, shiny! redirect their attention and make them less uncomfortable with him.
"With me approaching you, I have to get inside your space. And to make you comfortable, your - eye contact sometimes feels a little bit intense if I approach. But if I break eye contact, I can get in very close. If I keep eye contact, you'll feel it all the way up into your zone."
So you're at a bus stop, or a fast food restaurant, or taking your groceries to the car - or whatever - and somebody approaches you to ask for directions. "Hey", he says, looking around kinda puzzled, "do you know if there's a Mickey D's around here? I thought there was, but I seem to be lost." And because he's looking away from you - looking around, seemingly puzzled - you're obviously not the target.
Except that by not looking at you, he's managed to get inside your bubble. Your safe zone. Your I-have-time-to-react zone.
Or maybe he was rubbing his face - must be tired - as he moved in to stand next to you at the bus stop.
We take face-to-face interactions as more of a threat than non-eye-contact interactions, because predators need to track you with their eyes to make you into prey. Or do they? They can and do - and use their eyes to threaten and dominate - but really, all they need to do is to keep you in their peripheral vision and watch your body language and your reactions in order to size you up and decide whether you're a viable target or not. You can do the same thing - keep an eye on them in your peripheral vision, or make brief (non-threatening) eye contact - a nod, hihowyadoin' - letting them know you know they're there. We'll talk about body language and projection of self in another post; we've discussed it briefly in the past.
But watch out for shiny objects and redirects - whether it's an actual pickpocket oops, sorry for bumping into you or somebody with a more nefarious plan. In this society, the "rule" is that your personal space extends to, at a minimum, a circle circumscribed by the length of your legs. When another person is involved, then it becomes about two of their steps. (Your safe distance is larger for taller people because they can reach you more easily if you're at the same distance as for a shorter person.)
The kids learn this too - both as polite distance and as bad guy distance. The younger ones haven't yet developed the internal "you're too close" alarm system, but even small children recognize how far away "two bad guy steps" is, without measuring the person's inseam.
So... don't get shiny-objected. You don't need to be paranoid, just aware of your surroundings. That can forestall a lot of things.