The Refreshingly Human Art of People Watching
When I flew home last month after my family visit I engaged in one of my favorite activities. I did some people watching. I love people watching. I try to be discreet of course, but it’s not such a big deal these days because nobody really looks at anybody else anymore so how would they know if I was watching them? No, people don’t look at people anymore, they look at their smart phones. Entire families sitting together at the gate–Mom, Dad, two kids, all looking down messing with their phones. No one really talks much either. Talking? That’s so last decade! And no one bothers to people watch. Watch who? It’s not like Ivanka Trump is gonna go swishing by your perch in the Delta terminal in Atlanta or anything. But you can see her any time of the day or night you like on your smart phone. Yeah, that’s the ticket–Ivanka on your smart phone. Anyone else sensing the irony?
I still use a tracfone flip phone, patented by Alexander Graham Bell, so I have nothing better to do while waiting for a plane than people watch. And despite the fact that no one pays attention to anyone anymore, I was kind of embarrassed to let people see my little black phone. If I looked at it at all, it was on the sly, reaching in and opening it within the walls of my purse. Just a glimpse to check the time and then I’d slip it back into it’s little slot, next to my Burt’s Bees lip gloss and Mentos gum.
Then I would go back to people watching. There were things to see. People everywhere. It was all so interesting and stimulating for a country girl who spends all her time out in the woods talking to rabbits and birds.
There was an adolescent girl waiting with her parents in the gate across the aisle. She would run along, leaping in a stiff legged fashion, then jump and twirl around awkwardly and run back to her starting position, where her parents stood, talking to each other, ignoring her. She was in her own little world, where she was either a gymnast, a cheerleader, or performing a Mary Katherine Gallagher skit from SNL, I don’t know, but she was really entertaining to watch.
There was a lean blond woman with a great haircut and fashionable clothes, (where did she get those boots?!) who was talking constantly on her phone. Talking as she negotiated her luggage around the seating area, talking as she waited in line at the check-in counter, talking as she approached the gate agent who was scanning boarding passes and smart phones. “I gotta go” she finally said into the phone, just as she stepped up to the scanner, and then,”Oh, my phone just died!” DOH! who would of guessed? She had to step aside and let the old broad with the paper boarding pass go by.
There were a number of kids at the crowded gate. It was interesting to watch them. They weren’t staring at phones. They were snuggling with stuffed animals, eating cheerios from bags and being read to by their Mom’s. Little boys were running around like chickens without heads exclaiming about the airplanes. A few were obviously tired and fussy. You know– little kids doing the same things little kids have always done. It was so refreshingly human-like.
And there were babies, the innocents, still in their Mother’s arms, looking around wide-eyed…at people. Babies don’t have to act bored in public. They can be curious and open and adoring of other humans and no one questions them. No one considers it rude or weird if they look up and a baby is peering into their eyes. That’s what makes them so precious. They are us–without phones, without hang ups, without fears. They haven’t learned to forsake nor are they old enough to have forgotten the value of real, human- look-you-in-the-eyes contact. In that bustling sea of humanity, one of those wide-eyed babies caught my eye. I smiled at her. She smiled back. It was so refreshingly human-like. It was…a beautiful thing.
©2017 by Ilona Elliott