Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Perspective

"Don't deprive yourself of the pleasure of having
an unproductive afternoon."
—Veronique Vienne

My to-do list was long and organized well. I dropped off my glasses to be refreshed with their new lenses. The hour-long wait was stuffed with well-intentioned projects. I hoped to grab a table at Barnes and Noble and spend the time looking for Polish folk art images, illustrations of the 30-Years-War, read and take notes about the Velvet Revolution of Czechoslovakia, and find the sought-for novel.

Two seconds after commandeering a perfect table outside on the deck overlooking the fountain, with a limeaid in hand, I remembered I didn't have my glasses. I mourned my lack of planning ahead, went searching for some readers and found a pair of one-size-fits-all for $40. In just an hour I would be shelling out $275 for a pair that was being designed for all my personal idiosyncrasies, so I decided I'd set my list and books aside and just people watch. A pair of sunglasses would keep my activity private.

It was kind of like observing animals at the zoo, seeing people in the wild like that. When folks are walking along, unsuspecting of an audience they unconsciously scratch secret spots, shift their pants up or down, chase down their cleavage in search of straps, and carry toilet paper squares stuck on their shoes.

They talk on their cell phones too loudly. I heard a grocery list being received, an "It's not you, it's me..." talk being delivered, and an excuse for why a lady couldn't visit her mom ("I'm sitting in a dentist's office and things are running way behind.") She even said, "But, Mom, It's not like I'm out shopping!" as she was consolidating her packages into one big shopping bag.

Watching others conduct their important daily business reminded me that losing a few minutes really wouldn't matter much in the long run. Nothing they were doing seemed dire, and my stuff was suddenly less urgent. I started seeing my spy-work as an important blog research trip.

I relocated myself to the fountain. It was too cold for kids to be running through the water ballet, so I just watched some folks meet up for lunch. I made up their stories:He seemed too old and plain for her. Was she his daughter? Eww...too touchy for a daughter! Was she his wife? Ewww...too touchy for a wife. Was I observing a tryst? Eww...the kissing was a little too slobbery for a tryst. I decided it was a sleezy hook-up.

A thirteen-year-old girl rushed out of the Apple Store to her waiting boyfriend. She dug through her purse and dangled a new mini-shuffle. He pulled her over to a bench a ways away and they ripped open the cover, chucked the plastic wrap and box and he walked away wearing it. Was it a gift? Had I witnessed a shoplifting??

And over there: was that naughty little boy being hauled off by his exasperated mother, or a calculating kidnapper?

Realizing I watch too much TV, I remembered the three-d glasses I'd worn at the children's museum. They allowed me to see more than what was actually on the screen. They gave a new perspective. Watching folks through the protection of my sunglasses gave me a new perspective, too. While it was fun to see the coordination of tattoos, piercings, stilettos, leggings, and glimpses of skin or size tags on inside-out boxers, without their story the folks seemed empty. Out of the kindness of my heart, I characterized them and took a few facts to turn them into people I could learn from.

Next time you're sitting somewhere doing nothing, watch the pageant of life going on around you. The observations you make can be spun into stories that will give you some perspective on your own life. You might turn out to be wiser, kinder, less judgmental, an altruistic person who will meet their needs. If not, just consider it blog research. You might need some sunglasses.



What a wonderful and vivid picture of your spying - and I am grateful for the reminder of the value if going "off list". Thanks

Christie said...

Oma, I LOVED this. So, so true.

Oh, and I totally make up stories about people when I'm people-watching. It's one of my absolutely favorite things to do. Glad I'm not the only one.

Travelin'Oma said...

Did you notice anything different about this post?
This was written in my sleep!

I had taken an Ambien, and it didn't seem to be working, so I came in to the computer to do some reading. I try to have enough discipline to never start writing a post after I've taken a sleeping pill. But suddenly I woke up in front of the computer. I'd written and published a whole post, but I was too tired to re-read it.

The second I woke up this morning I remembered, and I dashed in here to see what embarrassing secrets my inner mind had revealed. I found that I had written a long, rather boring post about nothing much. Not too different from my normal posts!

What I've learned from this episode is that I'm not John Lennon or Aaron Zorkin. Being out of my mind does not improve my writing.

Travelin'Oma said...

Wow! While I was writing my comment, I got two positive comments on this post. Maybe being out of my mind DOES help my writing! I'm actually very relieved that I don't do, say or write anything while I'm asleep that I wouldn't under normal circumstances.

kenju said...

If this is an example of how you write in your sleep, you ought to do it more often!! LOL
Excellent post, Marty. People-watching is one of my favorite things to do, particularly in big cities or in Europe.
(and I bet that 13 year old did shop-lift the ipod!)

gab said...

It's called BUI...blogging under the influence. Your inner thoughts are interesting!

gramakas said...

I wonder if anyone was watching you?????? So funny that you wrote that in your sleep. You write better even in that condition than I do wide awake... that's not fair! Congrats on the fun news from Pete and Anna! So exciting!