The joy of people watching

Posted by Yvonne Barlow on Thursday, November 14, 2019
When standing at the train station last week I saw that everyone gazed into their mobile phones. No one looked at those around them, at the people on the opposite platform. Instead, heads were downward as though gazing into a portal that might give them the latest news or the upcoming lottery numbers. When I see people so engrossed in their phones I often think they might be doing something important such as advising a colleague on how to do heart surgery. It's always disappointing to see that they're actually playing Candy Crush. It does make me think less of them.
Hands up, I do look at my phone. But I really prefer to look at the people around me:
The woman placing each foot gingerly as she walks along the platform is clearly wearing uncomfortable shoes, and I wonder why she bought them and how long she will keep them?
The woman who keeps interrupting her friend is clearly not a friend. The second woman's face grows sullen with each interruption, and I wonder what they are talking about. Are they sisters, because this is how older sisters behave - or are they old friends who've learned to give and take criticism of each other.
The man who walks while talking loudly on his mobile phone is clearly sharing his message with all of us, and I would hate to work with such an ego.
I love watching people and dressing the small snippets that I see: The older man with a child and a younger woman. I watch as the child grabs her father's hand, taking possession of him from the girlfriend and says, "Carry me!" She looks about five. But the father throws her hand away and says, "Walk or you'll grow fat!" I see unhappiness and therapy ahead for that child. And if the young woman was smart, she'd dump him.
My husband, his head in email as I point out the scene, sees nothing. My imagination, he says when I tell him what I saw.
But it's watching these people that gives spark to that imagination. I'd be a dull editor without it.


Tags: "people watching" "mobile phones" "candy crush" imagination 

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Yvonne Barlow Editor at Hookline Books

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