Have you ever people watched on a train or tube? The ubiquitous avoidance of eye contact makes the job of people-watching so much easier. You can look at that person opposite and although they may sense it, tube etiquette dictates they usually won’t threaten you with a counter stare.
Once you start looking at someone properly, you realise how little you do it. When you really look at someone, not just a cursory glance, people start to look different. You notice subtle asymmetry, the rogue eyebrow hair standing 2″ proud of the rest, freckles, scars, tics and twitches, luscious mouths, thin lips, good skin, too much mascara and dirty fingernails. You notice how somebody walks into the carriage solemn-faced, then how their face lights up with a smile as they read a text. They look completely different when they smile. You wonder what the private joke is and conjure a picture of the author; pondering who he/she is and if they know the power they possess over the person reading their words. Suddenly, a tedious train journey becomes awash with imagination, observations and fascination.
Of course it isn’t always such an edifying experience. I have all too often sat opposite well turned out men only to stare in revulsion as they dig lunch out of their nostrils. Not surreptitiously either – I’m talking a full on treasure hunt. It’s disgusting, but I’m not sure it’s as bad as the man (and they are always men), who spend their journey digging their ears out and then rolling the debris around before their hands disappear to wipe ‘it’ off onto the seat. I am quite candid in my observation of these individuals and have come to the conclusion that they have no idea they are doing it. Who would do stuff like that openly, knowing they are being watched, yet chew the boogie out from under their fingernails?
It’s one of Life’s conundrums……..As is watching a woman attempting to apply her lipstick, mouth open, grimacing as though half crazed. Not pretty!
One of the must irresistible watches is the person eating a meal opposite you. I don’t usually watch people eat, mostly because I wouldn’t want to be observed munching my lunch. However. If you’re doing it in full view of the travelling public (and probably stinking the carriage out to boot), any usual convention around privacy is hereby waived. Eating really is the most fascinating and horrible thing to watch. It’s terrifying how many people eat with their mouths wide open. It’s like looking into a tumble dryer with food being churned about inside. I also never realised how many people ‘speed eat’ – no wonder there’s so much indigestion these days.
You could spend a day riding around on public transport and never be bored with watching the continual ebb and flow of people, as they go about their day. It’s fascinating – people watching at it’s best.