Are you someone who enjoys people watching? I have to admit doing this quite often when out and about.
And before you say anything – I’m not a voyeur! Heaven forbid that you would even think such a thing about me. No, it’s when I’m out, usually at the cafè. In fact, a cafè has to be the best place to people watch.
The other day I took my computer (which I often do) to my local cafè to do some work. One of the perks of having an online business – you can take it with you.
I got there quite early and settled in with good intentions to complete the tasks on the list. It wasn’t long before a chap in a high viz jacket came in, ordered and took a table within my line of vision.
Perhaps it’s because I have a rather vivid imagination, but this was when my mind started wondering what he did, where he lived and why he was alone.
After a few minutes, I noticed he was sitting there gazing out the window with a faraway look on his face. Then I saw an elderly lady at the table in front of him who was also on her own.
Both tables were next to the window, and both had only two chairs, so they were quite small. Both occupants were on their own, facing the same way and staring out the window. No phones were on their tables, no newspapers or magazines. It appeared that both were perfectly content to be in the moment.
The woman received her coffee and muffin and slowly and quietly began to partake in them. I thought of the song
Eleanor Rigby, although I felt this woman wasn’t in such a sad state as the people in the lyrics. I bestowed the name of Eleanor to her, wondering what was she thinking and what her life was like. She was nicely dressed, her nails painted a pearly colour, and her hair looked like she had blond streaks through it; either she visited the hair salon or was blessed with no greys! I put her in her late 70s or even into her 80s. Here was a woman who obviously took care of herself. Did she live alone? Or perhaps she had an invalid husband, and she was taking a much-needed break? Whatever her life was, she was very content to sit and watch people pass by the window. Was she doing what I was doing, people watching?
My attention then switched to High Viz man (as I had named him), who was still gazing out the window. When I see people in a ‘gaze’, I begin to make up stories about their lives, what they’re thinking, and what they will do when they leave the cafè.
By the looks of what he was wearing, I concluded rightly or wrongly that he was in construction. However, I did think that the boots I was wearing were probably more weather-proof than the shoes he had on. On the other hand, they could have been steel-cap. See where my imagination takes me?
His coffee arrived, and he took a moment to say thank you before reaching for the sugar. I counted three spoonfuls being delivered carefully into his cup. As he stirred the sugary beverage, his eyes were again attracted to the window, and his gaze seemed very contemplative.
Before too long, his breakfast arrived, and his focus was diverted to the meal as he occupied himself with savouring the contents on his plate. I was going to say that I was impressed he didn’t load up his fork until he’d finished what was in his mouth, admiring his lingering process. But he only did it a couple of times, and then it was into the very Kiwi way of stacking the fork with food and shovelling it in. Maybe it gave him something to do, although he did break once and window gaze and, for a split moment, the food seemed to be forgotten.
In the meantime, Eleanor began to come to the end of her refreshments. The muffin was mere crumbs on the plate, and she drained the last of the beverage. As she got up from the table, it was apparent she had hip problems because she was walking slowly. Although she didn’t have a cane, her gait looked so painful, and my heart melted for her. My last thought as she made her way out of the cafè was that I hoped her day would be blessed with people, smiles and laughter.
I continued with my work, and it wasn’t long before High Viz man finished his breakfast and made his way out into the street.
As there were no more people in my line of vision, I reflected that when I see people like Eleanor, should I go and sit with them? But then, I often sit alone in cafès and enjoy the solitude. Mind you, I do have a computer keeping me occupied, although I also can gaze out of the window and be engrossed with people watching.
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