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People Watching is More Interesting than TV Sitcoms

People watching in Gas Town

I had a drum teacher that told me he never gave half hour lessons because he felt that it was too short a time frame. His reasoning was that by the time he explained a certain concept and then demonstrated what it should sound like, there was no time left for the student to explore the pattern before the lesson ended. This is exactly the way I feel about prime time sitcoms – I just start to get interested in the story and the programme’s finished. I need to be immersed in the unfolding of the tale in order to feel that my time’s not wasted.

Now that I work from home, I’m vigilant about getting out of the house at least once a day. It doesn’t matter where – a quick trip to the nearby postal outlet for stamps or a bus ride qualifies. Often, I end up in neighbourhoods I haven’t been before: if it’s not raining, I’ll walk around; if it is, I treat myself to a latte. Lately, it seems, I’ve been doing a lot of people watching. I like to write mental bios for those people who catch my eye. Rough hands with calluses on the fingers means the person is a guitarist (never a carpenter – a particular prejudice of my mine) still playing small jazz clubs to pay their dues.

I used to think that people watching was the purview of the creative process. Writers, visual artists, actors – anyone who wants to reflect some aspect of humanity back to the world – need grist for the mill, so to speak. How people walk, talk, sit still, sit fidgeting, could be useful to me when I’m creating characters that I hope will “live” on the page. But it’s not just the artist that benefits. People watching provides insight into and valuable information about the way we interact with others, which comes in handy for most everyone in any walk of life.

Yes, I people watch for all the above reasons. But my main motivation is that it’s fun.

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