It is hard to look Stuart Muller in the eye.
Instead, most people stare at the UF agricultural and biological engineering doctoral student's wiry, almost 2.6-inch long white eyelash.
He hopes the hair on his left upper eyelid will give him the Guinness World Record for the world's longest eyelash.
The current record, held by Jolie Matzes as of July 2006, is 6.4 centimeters (2.52 inches), according to an e-mail sent to Muller by Guinness World Records.
He only has to turn in the proper paperwork to the fact-finding agency to clinch the record.
Muller attributes his ability to grow a hair so long to a "mutant follicle" on his eyelid.
"It's such an idiosyncratic thing," Muller said, "people start to associate me as the guy with the freaky eyelash."
Muller, who has been growing the eyelash for more than a year, said he first got the idea while flipping through "The Guinness Book of World Records" with friends, and he realized he could realistically break the record.
But over the year, he said, the greatest hazard in trying to break the world record has been helpful strangers.
Often, people will approach him with the good intention of getting a hair out of his eye, he said. Then, he has to quickly reach out and grab their hands to stop them from ruining what could be a record-breaking hair.
"I got pulled over and the cop was like 'Oh, there's a hair in your eye,'" he said.
He said people are usually very apologetic when they realize the importance of the lash, and then they get "weirded out" by it.
To avoid the potentially hazardous attention, Muller often wears sunglasses out in public.
In the past, the eyelash "has been burnt, plucked out, other people have plucked it out," he said. "One person sat on my chest and plucked it out for a trophy."
The eyelash was singed on one occasion while he was drinking a flaming alcoholic shot called a psychopath. At the end of the shot, the drinker is supposed to blow through a straw to produce a small fireball in the drinker's face.
Muller woke up the next day to fuzzy memories and a much shorter, crispier eyelash.
"It's bizarre," said Kari MacLauchlin, Muller's friend of four years. "I don't think I've ever known anyone who's gone for a record. It's the novelty of it; it's funny."
MacLauchlin, a doctoral student at UF, said the general consensus among Muller's friends is that the eyelash is annoying and hard to look at.
She admitted to trying to pluck it out on occasions, joking that she will probably cut the hair off while he sleeps.
MacLauchlin said when she and the rest of Muller's friends heard about his record-breaking hopes, they had suggestions for him. They feared that the hair would stop growing, so they told him to take hair, nail and skin vitamin supplements.
"You know, you get so caught in school it's nice to have a distraction and have a goal not school related," MacLauchlin said.
Muller said his earliest memories of growing out the eyelash are when he was 8 years old in his hometown of Durban, South Africa. He would grow out the hair purposely to irritate people.
When he was 11 years old, Muller said, he grew the lash the longest it has ever been - about 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) long.
No one else in Muller's family has the ability to grow an eyelash so long, and he has never met anyone else with the same ability.
An e-mail sent to him by Guinness World Records says that when he has the eyelash measured, it has to be wet because that is when the hair would be at its longest.
After the lash has been measured, videotaped, photographed in color at high quality and witnessed by two people of standing in Gainesville, such as a judge, doctor or mayor, the agency will review the material, the e-mail stated.
Muller will then receive a certificate stating that he is the current record holder but with no guarantee of making it into "The Guinness Book of World Records."
Once all is said and done, he said, he plans to throw a party with friends. The theme of the party will be world records.
"It's done its duty," Muller said, explaining that he has no intention of growing the eyelash out to such an extreme length again.
He said he had promised MacLauchlin the honor of plucking out the lash, though he has considered auctioning the privilege off.
"Not to inflate the whole issue," Muller said, laughing. "It's just an eyelash at the end of the day."