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Encounterism: The Neglected Joys of Being In Person

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As human-beings with over 14 unique senses, just remember that Zoom/Teams only caters to two of those senses.

As a 40 year old, I had to work with 10 year olds to help them visualise what their (and my) home town would look like in 30 years time. And whether he's guiding us into mass snowball fights on the streets of London or the meaning of holding hands, this unmet stranger cheerfully reminds us all of the value of touch and the virtue of trying to see the world anew. Field is also about to turn 40 years old, and the reason that age is important, is that he is of the last generation that grew up in the pre-internet age of everything, all at once. The light touch of a hairdresser's hands on one's scalp, the euphoric energy of a nightclub, huddling with strangers under a shelter in the rain, a spontaneous snowball fight in the street, a daily interaction with a homeless man--such mundane connections, when we closely inhabit the same space, and touch or are touched by others, were nearly lost to "social distancing.A portrait that is so joyous and insightful that I couldn't help but see my own everyday interactions in a whole new light. Urban life really does require human interaction, Field explores this with child-like passion, and helps remind us that remote-desktoping your life is not life at all.

My thoughts and feelings about getting a haircut are entirely different from his, but I felt that he was stretching out his writing. From the history of the haircut to the mystery of The Jetsons, Andy Field is the freshest, most down-to-earth, most constantly surprising (and endearing) explorer of urban life I've read in a while. A rousing reminder that our cities, our residential and work places, must still allow for the possibility of spontaneity and shared, in-person joy. The book was written while the pandemic was going and seem to be finished right around when restrictions were being lifted.

You never know what someone else is going through, which could be a lot worse than how you think your bad day is progressing. At home with our screens, we have yet to bounce back from that disruption, yet to readopt old habits like commuting to the office or watching movies at the multiplex. A delightful meandering sociology read that delves into the various ways we connect with one another.

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