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Sizing Up Your Prey

March 29, 2010

I hope that every single person reading this has participated in the noble sport of people watching/crowd watching at least once in their lives. If you have, you will be able to fully relate to this.

As an overworked, underpaid, and financially limited student, I tend to spend most of my waking hours either on the U of C’s campus or in my house (exciting, I know). So not long ago, when I broke this pattern and took some time to sit and eat in North Hill Mall’s food court, I had one thought:

Whoa.

These were not the hustling and bustling 17 to 30 year-old caffeine-addicted students I am used to seeing every day, nor the jaded professors who wade through the crowd of zombies… these people were diverse! And some were, well, downright weird. So I revived my love for people watching.

I watched as an old frail woman bought her 3 giant cartons of cigarettes from the tobacco shop, and as a middle-aged and worn down man dressed in the brightest colours the 1990’s had to offer read a newspaper written completely in Korean. I don’t even know where you would find a Korean newspaper in Calgary. There was an overweight woman, with people who seemed to be family members, causing a scene after spilling her Edo all over the restaurant’s front counter, and demanding another while the frustrated workers attempted to clean up the shrimp and rice avalanche. There was a senior man who had just dropped a pocket fully of change very audibly, and was waving off the teenage notification that his money was on the ground with an awkward chuckle. Then there was the table of young guys with popped-collars and square cubic zirconia earrings, laughing amongst themselves over a spinning basketball.

I found myself trying very hard to get from the all-too-easy people judging into people watching; the difference being that instead of wondering why such a frail woman would still be ingesting a pack of cigarettes a day at age 85, I started to wonder how and when she started smoking, and why, and the stories that go along with every cigarette since then. Does she live alone and smoke that cigarette by herself in a rocking chair? Or is it scheduled social time with her husband or friend? And instead of judging the woman getting frustrated about her scattered seafood for being rude or clumsy, I wondered what her day had been like. Maybe she had just come from a terrible day, and this had been the icing on the cake, in which case I might have been pretty snappy and shaken up too.

Without sounding too deep and philosophical, I really enjoyed visualizing what everyone’s story in that diverse crowd might have been. It was a great reminder that we are all very different, and had me wanting to ask more about the stories of the people in my life. Also, some people are plain hilarious (socks and sandals only scrape the surface of fashion faux pas here), and I plan to go people watching again soon. Maybe I’ll bring popcorn! You in?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin B. permalink
    March 30, 2010 12:07 am

    Wow, that is awesome! I love the crazy things people do. It usually gives me some reason to laugh as someone does something ridiculous or strange. We should meet up at lunch on a day when we both got break and go people watching.

  2. Pam permalink
    March 31, 2010 8:13 am

    My all-time favourite kind of people watching: through windows that look like mirrors to the people on the other side. Creepy, yes. But its probably the most intimate moment you can have with a complete stranger. They are looking at themselves in the most honest way, and from where I’m sitting, they’re looking right at me. Makes the most self-conscious person feel like they are not alone.

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