The man struggling to zip his jacket for five minutes, the couple hesitantly meeting palms and locking fingers for the first time, the girl swiftly shaking off the awkward moment of waving to a friend only to be overlooked -- these are only a handful of the millions of moments happening all around us. Only those who engage in the art of people watching can catch these otherwise unnoticed instances. Some find themselves engrossed in people watching by choice. It becomes a fascinating hobby of enjoyment over time. Others may not even realize that their eyes are subconsciously observing the lives of those around them.
Just for clarification, this is not stalking. The art of watching people with an open mind and just taking in the little, and sometimes big, moments that occur to others is a true wonder. This is about focusing on someone else, even if just for the span of an intake of breath, and catching them doing something quirky. It is about realizing that the world around us really is outstandingly immense and we tend to let things pass us by. If you do not put your phone down, you might miss the guy in the backwards Atlanta Braves cap, eyes also glued to his leather-cased smartphone, walking into the cold metal of a stop sign.
People watching is often akin to a silent film in real life. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to hear the words of a man having a splendid conversation with a pair of doves, beneath the shade of the tall oak tree across the park, as bird feed flies from his palm to the grass around them. Other times, it is a sound that draws us into this activity. People watching commences with the fluttering of an attention-grabbing word into your ear. Suddenly, you are restraining your laughter at the thought of children, of the woman sipping a caramel macchiato across from you, chasing a likely frightened squirrel around a living room full of an equally frightened group of extended family members. The only ones amused were the children and grandma.
Sometimes, you see things you wish you hadn’t. Yes, there are moments that send chills down your spine as you watch a classmate drop a Chick-fil-A waffle fry on the ground, question life for ten seconds, and eat it after just a few glances to make sure no one saw that. Yeah, I saw that. Sometimes, a brief instance leaves you grateful for being in the right place at the right time. Have you ever seen the cute elderly couple at a restaurant sitting side-by-side at a dingy booth, sharing not only a plate of fries, but also sweet smiles from their hearts to their eyes? Cheesy, but these are moments to admire.
It’s amazing to think how much we can learn from simply stopping for a moment and soaking the world in. In this day and age, we find ourselves engrossed in the search for the next viral videos of guys named “Daniel” constantly wearing white vans, scrolling through social media for ultimate fail compilation videos, or the never-ending competition for “likes” through paragraphs of hashtags. We forget that there is an entire world around us in higher definition than what we see through the blindingly bright LED screens of our smartphones. So, next time you are idly contemplating how to spend a spare moment of time, go to a public place, sit down with a cup of favorite drink, and observe. You may not know what you’ve been missing.