It’s a known fact that a lot of us ‘people watch’. Whether it’s for inspiration or we’re just trying to pass the time as we wait for our bus or train or something else, we all do it at some point.
Yesterday I traveled with my friend to Cambridge so she could look at the college she is hoping to apply for. This was a perfect time for me to sit back and look at all the wonderfully unique individuals in our world. As I’m not planning on applying to Cambridge, I didn’t really need to pay much attention to what I was being told.
My first batch of people watching occurred when we were waiting for our train at Liverpool Street station. You had your usual business men and women strutting around along with some tourists who were taking pictures of everything. I love to pick out an individual and make up a whole story for them. Those two old women walking past us? They’re actually lost and have no idea where they are, so they’re looking around in bemusement until a helpful young man offers some assistance. The man standing on your left is wearing a jumper and scruffy jeans with some old trainers. He has a hat on – to cover a bad haircut or because his mother bought it for him? He’s holding flowers, maybe for his mother who is hoping to see her son who has been elusive about the whereabouts of that lovely hat she bought him for Christmas. Or maybe she’s in hospital and he had to throw on any old clothes to rush to her side. Perhaps they’re for a girlfriend as it’s their anniversary. But wait – he keeps trying to call someone but can’t get through. Maybe they’re in an argument and he’s desperately trying to sort things out. He finally gets through and he starts waving his hands in the air, but the flowers he’s clutching are now trembling with petals fluttering hopelessly to the floor.
I find that I can get pretty lost when I ‘lock on’ to a target, but I have to say that it’s a very cheap way to pass time when you’re in a busy place and it takes minimum effort. All you need is a nice place to perch and a wandering imagination. A pair of sunglasses also helps so you can stare for as long as you like, but try not to get into stalker mode – people don’t like that.
When we were finally on the train (the guy with flowers was in the same carriage as us and the flowers were now in the hands of a girl. She had a different complexion to him, so not a sister, but she wasn’t smiling either. He finally took off the hat to reveal that he didn’t have a bad haircut, just bad taste in hats) and on strolled a young man who had to be your stereotypical Cambridge university student. It wasn’t his gelled back blonde hair which was perfectly combed, or his large black glasses, or his perfectly ironed blue shirt which was buttoned right up to his chin or even his white trousers and brown suave shoes. It was the fact that the poor lad was attempting to make a fashion statement by rolling up the ends of his trousers over his skinny ankles.
After the hour long train journey and a short drive to the chosen college, we waited in an open room with everyone else. All the others our age were with their parents and we decided that we would play a game: who wanted to be here and who was dragged here by their parents. The girl strolling up to the table to sign in? Wants to be here. The two girls awkwardly standing to the side as their mothers talk all about what their daughters were applying for? Definitely dragged along.
It got to a point where my friend and I looked like complete loons as we just surveyed everyone, occasionally pointing out something and bursting into fits of giggles. Now I’m not saying our behaviour is excusable or that laughing at people is a good thing, but it really is good fun. (And you kind of feel like a detective/ on an undercover mission)
Let me know about your own people watching experiences or even what you think about it! ~Eleanor
p.s – the guy with flowers took the train journey to make up with girlfriend; they left holding hands. The guy with the rolled up trousers is still working on his fashion statement. The two old ladies did eventually find their way out of the station.
(I also really want this hat)