Posted by: TheAuthor | 23/03/2011

People Watching

Something that is always good for entertainment is people watching. If I have some spare time while sitting in a public space, or waiting for something in public–then I find it interesting to see how people live their lives. You may find yourself conducting people watching in a small way, sitting at a table in a pub whilst waiting for company. You will look around, if not playing with your mobile phone, and see what people are up to around you; perhaps not someone isn’t creating space for people to negotiate past while laden with drinks. People watching can be a hobby to some people, I am not that dull to treat it as such, or it can be used for research on social interactions.

A most memorable people watching experience of mine was in Berlin. It was a hot, early summer’s day sitting near the Fernsehturm (Television Tower) on a bench facing a large water fountain. This fountain was set at ground level and intermittently shot jets of water into the air before pumping streams of water upwards. For the remainder of the time, it lay dormant and bubbled placidly below apparent stepping-stones that lay across its width. As I sat, many people gazed into the cool pool of water before leaving the area. I made up conversations for the people I saw or maybe a life story.

A few people had come up to the fountain as it bubbled and thought it wise to cross the stepping-stones. On every occasion, once a third of the way across, the jets of water seemingly turned on. Caught by surprise the unlucky adventurer became drenched and ran back to safety, out of the streams of water. I found this occurrence very amusing, for after the victim had left someone else would come along and play in the fountain before becoming drenched. The cycle continued for quite a while, prompting me to debate whether there was in fact a controller – waiting for the prime opportunity before turning on the fountain. I decided that there was, timing was often too perfect for a timer. The fountain bubbled for long durations before people crossed over, never did the fountain turn on when no one was crossing over.

A family approached the fountain with a couple of young children and an obviously high maintenance 16-year-old girl; sporting high heels, carefully crafted hair and make up, the works. This girl played with her younger brother at the edge of the fountain, before seeing the stepping-stones. Tenderly climbing the wall in her heels, pulling up her brother, this 16 year old stepped onto the fountain and began walking across. This was a compelling scene to watch, in the knowledge that something would happen – as it had for so many people before. The two of them made it to the middle of the pool, before the inevitable occurred.

The fountain poured water into the air, immediately soaking the pair who were stuck mid-way across. Panic stricken, the girl froze and glanced in every direction deciding what to do–while her young brother chose to run back where he came from. Eventually the girl carefully ran in her heels to the edge, hair sodden around her face and shoulders and notably upset–who wouldn’t be I suppose.

I often gaze out of the window at work, seeing people running for the bus over snowdrifts or slipping on ice. Not for perverse pleasure, but in a pursuit to understand how people interact with the world. I know how I deal with situations, but how does everyone else.

Do you watch people in the world?

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