Like most fourth-graders, Danny Goldsmith's interests run more toward Nintendo and baseball cards than kissing. Lately, though, his focus has been on kissing -- but only in the name of science.
Danny, a pupil at University Park Elementary School in Hyattsville, did a science project on the kissing habits of commuters at the Takoma Park Metro station.
He compared the number of couples who kiss good-bye while in the lane designated "kiss-and-ride" with those using the regular drop-off lane.
In four days of surveying morning rush hour drop-offs, he found that 80 percent of Metro riders kissed in the kiss-and-ride lane, compared with only 32 percent in the unmarked lane.
Last week, the 9-year-old's project was one of four grand prize winners in a Prince George's County science fair for elementary students, beating out some 400 other entries.
The idea of counting kissers occurred to Danny when his mother -- psychologist Diane Bartoo -- and a friend were joking about kissing in the kiss-and-ride lane.
"I started thinking about the science of subliminal impulses," Danny said, adding, "This was an entirely new field to me. I had heard of subliminal messages, but never studied it."
Actually the message of "kiss-and-ride" is not subliminal but quite explicit.
It's part of all suburban Metro stations, said Metro spokeswoman Beverly Silverberg, "because we thought it would be a great way for people to start off their day."
Ms. Silverberg added that she is delighted with the project, even though Danny never asked Metro authorities for permission to count kissers.
"That's what education is all about, getting kids interested and involved with the world around them," she said.
"If something like this can be an inspiration for original research, that's wonderful."
Danny spent four mornings in February sitting with his parents in their car watching commuters getting dropped off to catch the subway.His parents helped him keep track when cars bunched up, he said. He counted 238 vehicles in the four mornings.
"I was a scientist," he said. "I didn't feel like I was spying at all."
But he did make observations about kissing that were not quantified in his scientific conclusions.
"Mostly it was just a quick kiss," he said.
"Sometimes it would be for longer periods. You could guess how longthey'd been married by the length of the kiss, and how long they hesitatedbefore kissing."
He did not actually interview couples to find out how long they had been married, he added, but guessed based on their apparent age.
The older they were, the shorter the kiss and the less hesitation before it, he discovered.
And one particular kiss sticks in his mind.
"One time the boy was shy, but the girl wanted to kiss him, so she grabbed him by the collar."
Danny plans on using his $100 prize money -- in the form of a savings bond -- for his college fund, baseball cards or a bow-and-arrow set.
He will move in a different direction for next year's science project, he said.
"I think I'd like to do something with animals, like with my dog to see what kind of bone she likes best. I have evidence that she likes meat bones because she jumped up and grabbed a piece of ham off my father's plate."