Here’s looking at you, kidPublished 10:53am Thursday, November 14, 2013
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If you’re prone to enjoy the leisurely activity of people watching, then you’d be hard pressed to find a better seat (or show) than I had Saturday during Brookhaven’s Christmas Open House.
Not only were shoppers getting a jump on the season, but moms with an eye on keepsake photos were taking advantage of the day as well. My view was unsurpassed – just feet away – for watching kids dressed in matching holiday ensembles have their likeness taken.
Some of them were more than happy to oblige. I recall one little girl, wearing a bow half as big as her, who looked like she’d had some practice. In fact, she managed to maintain a spot-on grin throughout her sibling’s five-minute standoff with the photographer. Pretty impressive.
Of course, there were babies who cried and big kids who threatened to, but most subjects did well enough to earn an after-flash cookie.
Watching the moms on the sidelines Saturday reminded me of another mom – and another sideline – at the Exchange Club ball park some time ago.
I spent 15 summers hauling jersey-wearing Hendersons to baseball games, which translates into a lot of people watching possibilities.
On the particular night in question, the score was tight and tensions were high. That’s when someone from the other dugout made the unwise decision to heckle our guy at the plate.
Mommas, in general, don’t care for that, so I wasn’t surprised when the batter’s mother became disgruntled. I was surprised, however, to see her stand up on a bleacher, raise her flip flop high, and threaten to use it to teach manners to anyone who dared to continue questioning her son’s athletic abilities. I don’t recall that anyone did.
I guess that was one time it was pretty much impossible not to be a people, I mean, person watcher.
And there are other occasions when you can’t help but be more than a casual observer of the human race. Like at the hairdresser’s, where you often see and hear more than you bargained for, or at the doctor’s office, when you’re wondering just how contagious that guy in the chair next to you might be.
Then there’s the grocery store. Ever been on an aisle and thought someone was speaking to you, only to realize he was actually on a Bluetooth headset?
It’s hard not to cross the line from watcher to eavesdropper at such a time, but surely anyone speaking loud enough to be heard three yards away should know that what they say about their mother’s bunion is fair game.
Sometimes, though, people watching has a more valid purpose. For instance, it takes real skill to size up the situation in a Black Friday line. Those ahead of you must be properly categorized as either real competition or potential dropouts.
This is usually easy to discern by what they’ve brought with them: pillows – serious, a large drink – amateur. (Think it through.)
But if you prefer to people watch just as a means of passing the time, the possible observation posts are limitless. You can even make a game of it. Going to a wedding reception? Count how many times you see men tug at ties they’re not used to wearing. Got a window seat at a restaurant? Guess which car the couple is walking to outside in the parking lot. Stuck waiting on a bench at the mall? Spot a celebrity look-a-like.
Whatever approach you take, don’t let anyone label what you’re doing as mere staring, because science has given it a much more respectable name – naturalistic observation.
Just remember naturalistic observation works both ways, like those screens at some bank drive-ins. And that, my friend, is the one problem with this spectator sport – besides the fact that is doesn’t burn any calories. Sometimes the watcher becomes the watched.
Be sure to keep that in mind the next time you’re watching the world (and people) go by.
Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.