I have always been and believe I will forever remain a people-watcher. This habit has gotten me in trouble in the past. I remember a particular unpleasant situation when a very pretty girl felt offended that I had been ‘staring’ at her. When her friend confronted me about this, I was taken aback and felt embarrassed at having made someone feel uncomfortable simply by being curious.
I used to bring a notebook and a pen on the subway train with me, then sit and jot down notes about a particular passenger on the same train whom I found interesting. I would spot an older well-dressed gentleman and create a complete story about him, including what clothes his wife wears, how many children they have – and their ages – and what he had for breakfast today. This observation has two benefits, providing me with material for fiction stories and teaching me about myself. I realize that some people find this voyeuristic behaviour unconventional and perhaps inappropriate.
Have you ever met someone incredibly fascinating? This fascination could be positive or negative. There might be someone whose behaviour is absurd and utterly revolting, yet strangely fascinating and we find ourselves unable to look away. Of course, we could also become enchanted by a person with otherworldly beauty, from whom we can’t avert our eyes. Those are the people I enjoy studying.
While out for a walk at the zoo with my family last weekend, I found myself observing other families around us and reflected on how they might appear to someone who doesn’t share my tendency to study people. To some, they might look ordinary, but to me, most people are far from that. I get lost in the stories I weave, creating a film reel.
I am inspired by interesting people, those who speak kindly, patiently to one another, who hold the door for people walking into a building behind them, by people who have a kind smile to offer a stranger. Those are the people I am naturally drawn to and whom I like to study in order to learn more about myself. In fact, I often observe them in order to learn to be more like them when I grow up.
Do you enjoy people-watching?
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