Does anyone else love people watching?
There’s something therapeutic about just sitting back and taking the time to watch others going about their daily lives. Back when I was training to be a nurse, our lecturer set us a task to observe people in the hospital concourse, writing down what we discovered. The idea was to improve our awareness of non-verbal communication, emotions and the way people behave. I really found it quite interesting and eye-opening. It’s only when you focus on other people that you can really grasp an understanding of them, their unique story and your place in the greater scheme of things.
From that point on, I have enjoyed people watching. That probably sounds a bit weird. I don’t spy on people!! I simply observe them as I go about my daily life. I loved being in London because it turned out to be the perfect place for people watching. On my days off, I would head to Hyde Park or Camden Market or the West End to explore and I inadvertently found myself surrounded by hundreds of interesting and unique individuals.
I remember sitting in the sun eating my lunch in Trafalgar Square on a busy weekday, being entertained by the crowds of tourists taking photos of Nelson’s Column and the young travellers perfecting their selfies next to the bronze Trafalgar lions with their selfie-sticks in hand. They were exploring new places, having new experiences and making memories. Meanwhile, the busy city workers were hurrying past, suited up, heads down, talking on their phones and rushing back to the office with their Pret A Manger lunch for yet another day at a desk. Two very different types of people, worlds apart! Each and every person I observed had their own story, which I liked to imagine in my head. I wondered where they came from, what job they did, where they’re going and what’s their name?
The London buses and the Tube were also rich pickings. There seems to be an unspoken rule that nobody makes eye contact or speaks to a stranger on London transport, so that gave me plenty of time and opportunities for some covert surveillance. You really never know what you might see on the Tube. I would say that nothing surprises me anymore, but we are talking about the London Underground! On the other hand, the London double deckers gave me a perfect vantage point to watch people on the streets from the top deck. I would see wealthy women shopping on the streets of Kensington and Chelsea, with their handbag dogs, designer clothes and plastic faces. I wonder if they’re happy? Meanwhile, they walk past the cardboard nests in doorways, home to the homeless, without giving them a second thought. From the bus, I’m wondering how these people ended up living on the streets, surrounded by excess but with nothing to their name. The contrasts are quite shocking! I for one, will certainly never disregard another person because, despite my people watching ways, I will never know their true stories just as they will be oblivious to mine.
At the end of the day, we are all humans, living our own lives, writing our own stories and the World would be a very boring place if we were all the same!
Who’d have thought we could learn so much from something as simple as people watching?!