My favourite pastime, people watching. Although I’m sure the people I’m watching, are watching me, watching them!
I could be anywhere, sitting on public transport, watching the non- communication of travellers, head phones on, phone in hand. I’m wondering that they are listening to. Listening to the newest songs on Spotify. Perhaps they are listening to the same as I am? Now that would be a coincidence! Or reading – a furtive message from a loved one, someone they didn’t want to leave in bed this morning, that little knowing smile turning up the corner of their mouth, forgetting they are on a crowded train, still imagining the duvet snuggled around their shoulders. Or the usual message about being on the bus/train, and a countdown of minutes till they get to their destination, looking up at the station sign, following the same journey day-in day-out. 16 ½ min to their station. Positioned themselves in the 3rd carriage along, in the optimum place to alight by the station exit doors, 25 pounding steps down to the entrance, one swipe of the train ticket and out into the fresh air! Or an angry message to someone who has annoyed them. You’d read that in their faces, angry eyes, scrunched up at the corner, tapping furiously on the imaginary keys on the screen. Using both thumbs to get the message across quicker. Angry, angry, angrier.
Now the coffee shop is a place for serial people watchers, you can look out of the window at the people scuttling past on their daily journey never making eye contact. That would be too much to bare, if they did, they would have to stop and buy that creamy hot liquid gold latte. No time, too much to do, can’t carry a coffee, 3 shopping bags, 1 phone and concentrate on the list in their heads. You can see them looking around, getting their bearing, wondering what shop next to go into? The concentration etched on their faces, oh why did they leave it to the last minute to get the elusive gift for the friend who is so very demanding. Or those with more time, and less shopping. Contemplating the warm drink to sustain them as they flit from shop to shop, feeling the fabric of the shirts and coats, scarves and smelling the leather of the handbags. Or is that just me? Am I the fantasy of every people watcher, as I pick up warm cotton checked shirts eyeing up the colours. Feeling the material falling through my fingers, wondering if the hues of blue and green match the newly purchased bracelet of glass and silver beads. The look of curiosity on my face imagining if the cut is too tight and figure hugging, the thought of popping buttons makes me wince and quickly hang it back on the rail. I love looking at the fittings in a shop, rough wood, and cold metal bars, or glass and sleek white wood. All a great contrast against the fluffy clothes and shiny leather. Do others look at my face as I see my reflection in the mirror, and catch the thought going through my eyes ‘ I wonder if I need to put more lipstick on, I’m looking a tad pale’ or the look of shock when I’m realising my hair is messed up after trying the wide brimmed hat on? Or is that the look I see in the faces of other shoppers on the high street?
I never make eye contact when people watching, or ‘being people watched’ if that is a new job description. The eyes are the road to the soul, why would I want someone following me down into my place of sanctity!
My favourite place to do this – the hairdressers, when they sit you on one of those lovely comfortable ‘watching’ chairs looking out of the window. You can be anonymous. A faceless person on a chair, no one will ever know who you are with a towel half covering your head. You see the couples walking past arm in arm, purposeful and determined. Groups of young people milling and laughing and joking with one another, full of hope and enthusiasm, often with the glint of young sex in their eyes. Men in suits, white shirt cuffs and sparkly cufflinks peeping out from beneath double buttoned jacket sleeves. An impossible to recycle, take away coffee cup grasped in their sweaty little hands. Imagining they look cool and trendy, when in fact they actually do! Little men with little dogs on long leads, stepping briskly around to avoid street furniture and rubbish bins.
Hungry boys, hands holding paper napkins and blue and white bags – you know the kind- filled with warm pasties, or sausage rolls, eating with enthusiasm and greed. Girls equally as greedy, munching sandwiches of salad and chicken, on brown rye bread with green leafy salad peeping out between thick crusts. Always followed by those hungry pigeons, hippedy hopping after the food…never the people, we just happen to be carrying their lunch!
The blues rinsed, cardigan wearing older ladies and gentleman, holding their green carrier bags like shields and warriors going into battle. The battle of the youths crowding the pavements, the dog leads, and the discarded coffee cups. Who will win? Maybe them, but more likely to be the young families in mismatched colours, young who have dressed themselves in favourite wellies and summer coats, beany hats with bobbles, stripes and dragon tails swinging down their backs. They will win the pavement war. Buggies like tanks, pushing their way through the hordes of shoppers.
And cars parked on yellow lines, tucked away at the end of parking bays. Drivers furtively waiting to be pounced on by traffic wardens, enviously watching parking meters ready to swallow up shiny coins and click and clack so that they can park without fear nearer to the shops. Not everyone is successful in shopping and parking!
You see why people watching is a skill to be practiced whenever possible? You will never know how much fun it gives. Time and again.