I like to sit in a cafe, a park, a restaurant, a patio…anywhere where I can just observe interesting people or more accurately, ordinary people. I often make up the stories for these people whom I observe. Here’s a few I noticed today.
Glen and I went to the book store I just discovered last week. It has three wonderful stories with the first floor (second floor to Americans) housing a lovely large café with all kinds of seating plus coffee, tea and cakes for our enjoyment. This floor also happens to house the children’s department with books, toys, art supplies, etc. As I was reading a book (more on that later), I looked around and observed the people coming and going in the café.
First, there was a group of three brothers, ages 9-14ish with legs splayed out on the chairs and coffee tables. They each had a book that I could imagine Niels reading at that age. They seemed engaged in their own books with the occasional brotherly scoffing and poking. It was a reassuring feeling to see their easy camaraderie and their pleasure reading books on a lovely summer day.
Then there was the group of senior citizens, men and women, seated around a table. One had her walker and I observed that the others had varying degrees of mobility as they got up and moved around. They definitely had a long history together because their conversation did not indicate that they were there for a book study. Sounded a bit more gossipy to me!
As I continued to look around there were the usual individuals reading books, working on computers or iPads, writing in notebooks, etc. But the most interesting individual was a young man – maybe in his twenties?
For context, there was a display right in front of us with those fancy animals that can be bought in upscale toy stores. I think they are made in Germany. They come without packaging and are purchased separately, choosing the animals that will encourage imaginative play. Farm animals? Jungle animals? Ocean? The display was two-sided, each side had seven shelves, and each shelf had about six rows of different animals that were lined up from the front to the back of the display case. As you might expect, the shelves were messy with animals mixed up, turned backwards, lying haphazardly, and generally disorganized.
The young man that I mentioned, carrying a water bottle, spent 45 minutes silently and methodically organizing the animals. He moved the animals around to put them in the correct category and grouped them so that the sheep were with the sheep and the alligators were with the alligators. Several times he stepped back and looked at his work and I thought he was done, but evidently there was more to arrange because he got back on his knees and went back to work. Once he was finally done with that display, he moved to the book table displays and silently started reorganizing those. I never asked an employee if he was a “regular”, but I got the feeling that he is and that they not only allow him to contribute his skills, but that they are pleased to have his assistance.
Also today, I was sitting in our patio which is behind a six foot brick wall separating our yard from the street. There is really very little car traffic as the street is a dead end and there aren’t that many reasons to go down it. There is a LOT of foot traffic because at the end there is a pedestrian tunnel that goes under the roundabout that takes you to High Street which is the shopping district and the historic part of town.
I love to sit out there and just listen to the world going by. I’ve mentioned before the students who go up and down every week day. I just told Glen this morning that now that school is out for summer break, I miss the rhythm of the day that they provided. There are also plenty of tourists walking through the neighborhood during the day and night and every morning and I also notice a lot of the locals walking to their jobs in the town. You already know that there’s a pub right across from our front door and a sandwich shop next to it so we get plenty of people coming to those two establishments for refreshments throughout the day and night. As you might imagine, lots of the walkers are in pairs or groups and it’s fun to hear snippets of their conversations. Hmmmm…
This afternoon I could hear an English couple walking along arguing. As they got closer I could hear the argument. Seems that his shoes were making a sound and his wife didn’t like it. She kept asking him if he could hear it and he said they weren’t making any sound and then she described it as a “whoosh, whoosh” sound which he denied. It went on and on so I finally had to get up and surreptitiously open the gate to see them.
Oh my. They were a little old couple – maybe in their 80s. He was balding with a shock of white hair, dressed in khakis and a long sleeved button down shirt with some sort of brown loafer. She had white hair and was wearing black slacks and a vivid red blouse with black shoes. Now it sounds like I’m describing Glen and me, but the old man was too short ;-).
By the time I opened the gate they had walked past me so I was seeing them walk away. As the woman continued to complain, she stopped walking so that he could just hear his own shoes. I don’t think he noticed that she’d stopped because he kept right on talking and walking away. She eventually “hustled” to catch up to him and took his hand as they continued along…arguing about nothing like they likely had been doing for 60 years. (Ouch. Sounds a bit familiar!)
Oh how I wish I’d taken a picture…
And speaking of pictures…You know David, our next door neighbor. Well he steps out several times a day and always early in the morning. I recognize his footsteps and I always look up to see him go past our window. Remember that we live on this little street where our house walls and windows are literally right on the sidewalk that isn’t even two feet wide. I love to see 82 year old David as he “hustles” along at his quick pace. I finally asked him where he goes every morning. As I suspected, he walks to the store around the corner to buy his daily paper. I think he’s gone for a total of seven minutes max.
The other day I could hear David coming, but he was talking to someone which is unusual. Turns out he was walking with his housecleaner, Teresa who you “met” when he forgot his keys.
And I think I’ll use this opportunity to pinch myself and remind myself of the privilege we have to spend this time listening to the world around us as we travel to different places. Not only the privilege of travel, but the privilege of time. Time to slow down. To relax and to just be.
Right now I’m listening to the cathedral bells tolling.
Pinch me. (Not too hard, please!)
One thought on “Watching and/or Listening”
Love your posts and reflections!