Have you ever found yourself observing other people in a public place? Maybe you’re at a party where you don’t know anyone, or maybe you’re at work on an unusually slow shift. You might even be sitting at school and observing other students instead of paying attention to the lecture (whaaaat? Surely this has never happened…). Wherever you are, if there are other people around, it can be quite entertaining to think of hypothetical situations they may be in, like why the two teenagers three rows ahead of you on the bus are arguing or why the man who just scuttled past you is in such a hurry. Is he on his way to a job interview? Is he rushing home because his in-laws decided to pay him and his wife a surprise visit? Does he just have to use the bathroom badly? The possibilities are endless.
I people-watch more often than I’d like to admit. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s fun to come up with scenarios that random people might be involved in. There have been times where I’ve gotten so emotionally invested in an entirely imaginary situation and have felt let down when the people of interest exit my field of vision. This is embarrassing to admit, but I’ve even “followed” people to continue my pretend story of what they are doing. I don’t mean “follow” in the sense that I’ve ever followed anyone home or anything, but if I’m sitting on a bench waiting for the LRT, sometimes I’ll adjust my seating position so I can see the people I’m watching. I hope I’m not the only one who has done this because if I am, you probably all feel very uncomfortable at this point.
I remember one situation in particular where I got horribly wrapped up in analysing a couple’s interactions. I was at the airport in Toronto on my way to Chicago, and my connecting flight had been rescheduled to a later time due to bad weather. I was sitting in one of those super uncomfortable seats in the terminal, and there was an elderly lady sitting relatively near me who piqued my interest. She looked quite restless; she kept fidgeting, crossing and re-crossing her arms, looking around, checking the time, and letting out an occasional sigh. She visibly relaxed when a male sat down beside her, his arms full of Starbucks. He was holding two takeout bags in one hand and a drink tray in the other. As soon as he sat down, the lady pounced on the Starbucks as if it were her holy grail. This may seem to be nothing out of the ordinary, but it was so strange seeing such an old woman getting antsy over Starbucks, especially because you wouldn’t usually associate Frappuccinos with 80-year-old women. She took one sip of her drink and almost immediately, her face contorted, and she exclaimed “ROGER!” I couldn’t hear what they were saying after that, but I had the whole thing playing out in my head:
“Caramel, Roger? Really?!”
Roger looked helpless as the lady continued: “We’ve been married for sixty-four years, and you still don’t care enough to listen to what I say! You should know how I feel about caramel!”
“You said you wanted something sweet, Carol,” Roger protested. He looked defeated as if he was aware that any argument he made would be fruitless. “You never said you wanted java chip.”
Carol made an exaggerated huff. “I shouldn’t have to say that I want java chip. You’ve been with me long enough for you just to know.” She froze suddenly, and her eyebrows furrowed. “Did you hear that?”
“What?” Roger looked perplexed.
Carol shushed him and craned her neck. “Oh no!” She leapt to her feet. “Roger, we’re in the wrong terminal!” And just like that, Roger got up, gripped their carry-ons, and the couple started speed-walking away, leaving their Starbucks behind. It was a real struggle for me not to follow them. I had so many unanswered questions. For instance, Roger had just spent roughly $25 at Starbucks, and neither he nor his wife had touched any of it. The bags he had been holding earlier were still double-folded. Also, how could Carol be so ungrateful? The poor man had probably just wrestled through a crowd of fifteen-year-olds to satisfy the hangry woman. Can we also just talk about the fact that Carol didn’t even try to be subtle about the fact that she was outraged? The whole airport must have seen the ordeal.
Whatever the actual situation between the old couple was, I enjoyed the ten minutes I spent in their proximity. To this day, however, I’ll always wonder if Roger and Carol made it to their terminal, and what became of the untouched Starbucks.