People Watching

When I’m by myself in public with nothing to do or read, I settle for people watching. Eating alone, on a bus/train, in a meeting I don’t need to be, there are times I let my mind drift and observe the people around me.

I have a friend who invents crazy stories for people she’s observed: this guy is on the run because he’s murdered his wife, this lady just stole something expensive from a shop, this little girl hates her brother, and other kinds of mayhem. I remember clearly when someone showed up in our group that she had imagined to be a serial killer and it took her a long time to trust this (nice) guy! So much for making up crazy stories about the observed…

I tend to enjoy watching people in groups. Seeing who is involved, who is leading a conversation, who is itching to be somewhere else. Or who is watching me watch them. 🙂

As an outsider I might see the waitress get frustrated with the too-focused man arguing with his friend and inadvertently ignoring polite enquiries of “More coffee?” I might hear the group talk about someone who hasn’t arrived yet, and watch the dynamics change when X shows up.

I remember traveling on business some years ago and listening to two guys talk brazenly and openly about a bid on a project that my company was also bidding on, and said a polite “Thank you” to their dawning horror when I had to leave. A few weeks ago, my friend from Sacramento was on a flight from Albany to Washington DC and overhead two other people talking about her IT project in Sacramento!

When I was living in Bern, I remember being on a train in central England, in a set of 4 seats where the two facing me were occupied by a couple speaking Swiss-German. I spoke some German, not Swiss-German, but recognized the language. After a while, I realized that their accent was very similar to the accent I heard in Bern every day, except a little slower, a little broader. As we arrived in London, I asked them if they minded if I guessed where they were from. Of course, no way can you do it, they said, confident like all Swiss that no-one can understand their difficult dialect. So I led them on. Like German, but not German. Austria…no, Switzerland probably. They got a little nervous; they’d assumed privacy in the open. Perhaps Bern. They perspired. Perhaps not Bern, but the Emmental? Eeek, they squeaked. I don’t remember what I said in Bärn-Dütsch as I left, because I only ever learned a few sentences, but they thought I was fluent and were quite pink before I was out of sight. I wish I knew what they had been talking about!

There’s no important theme, message or moral to this, just a glimpse into my wandering mind as I munch on breakfast and wait for the Verizon person to arrive to fix the backup battery.

Maybe there is one message: Don’t assume you can talk about private/confidential things in public when others are in earshot; you never know what coincidence might occur.

About Single Dad

I married young. Now, after more than 20 years of marriage, 3 wonderful daughters, and many ups and downs, my wife has decided the marriage is over. The "About Me" and "My Background" pages on my blog have more details.
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6 Responses to People Watching

  1. TikkTok says:

    Meh. Where I live, it’s Spanish. It is rather annoying when people switch mid-stream into Spanish (because initially it makes you wonder if they are talking about you, lol) even when you know they think you know it. Spanglish is very common here, and demographically, a good majority in my area speak it.

    Kind of like the internet- don’t assume what you say/write is going to be private…. 🙂

  2. Grey Goose, Dirty says:

    I love people watching! I don’t make up stories about them, but do enjoy watching group dynamics and individual mannerisms.

  3. Reminds me of a time I was in the States as a kid and was riding a train with my mum. We were speaking in our language about how fun it was that no one could understand us. Then going home we were again speaking together, when an elderly lady across from us began speaking in the same language. She’s immigrated 50 years earlier, but still remembered her mother tongue. Luckily we weren’t saying anything bad about anyone, but it definitely taught me a lesson 🙂

    I don’t people watch, but I do make up stories when watching ducks (don’t ask why).

  4. mysterycoach says:

    I like people watching myself … I like reading, talking, learning watching… seeing. It’s all very interesting, that’s for sure.

  5. Surrey gal says:

    I also like to watch people when I’m bored, and I”m making crazy stories about them. Sometimes I’m imagining what dirty secrets they have. Come on, we all have at least one, right?

  6. I like the shocked look people get, when they realize that someone else was present in the moment when they thought no one was watching… 🙂 hehehehe, I am evil that way!!

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