I love sitting on my own in coffee shops and people-watching. There was a day and a time not so long ago when I couldn’t even enter a coffee shop and order a coffee on my own, never mind sit and drink it! These days, I am blessed with the ability to sit quite comfortably in a restaurant and have dinner on my own. Or go to the cinema alone, or enjoy a coffee.
People watching is a pastime that JP and I used to indulge in. On warm sunny days we would be sunning ourselves in the park or outside a coffee shop, or on cold winter days, we would be huddled up, peering out of the glass, observing other humans and taking turns at making up stories about them.
We loved wee independent coffee shops, (I still do, get yourself to The Coffee House if you are ever in Aberdeen, they do the most amazing home-made cakes) or tea houses where we would pick a person for the other, asking ‘What’s her story’ or ‘What’s their story’ and we would concoct a tragedy/comedy/drama from our imaginations. Sometimes we were just downright silly. It was lots of fun and resulted in some fairly raucous laughter and disapproving looks/tuts from the nearby people (who clearly had big sticks up their bums).
However, the reason I began this post was not to reminisce about times past. It was more to comment on the future, or perhaps my penchants for cynicism and dystopia. I am certainly a voyeur and so there I am, sitting in the local Maccy D’s feeling thoroughly disgusted with myself that I am eating in there in the first place, and feeling like my soul is being slowly sucked out of me by a combination of terrible music, bad vibes, negative people and plastic furniture. In my defence, I was brassic (a common Doric word for skint or poor) and I had decided on McDonald’s purely because I had a bus ticket to obtain a Big Mac and fries for £1.99. Whaaaaat? Oh come on, I’m a poorly student! *hangs head in mortal shame*
I digress. The teenager sitting next to me was spouting the most outrageous drivel to his friend and I felt like I was losing the will to live. I really empathised with his friend sitting opposite from him, who was desperately trying to change the subject more than a few times and even escaped to the toilet for around 15 minutes or so. I can’t even begin to put into words how cringy he was, but I can offer a comparison. Imagine if you will a louder, massive ego teenage version of this:
The child was clearly incapable of fighting his way out of a paper bag, never mind anything else. So with my soul rapidly depleting as I am thinking up ways to block up my ears and the urge to screech ‘WILL YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU TOTAL DICK’ at said teenager next to me rising, I looked around for a glimmer of something to distract me. My only reprieve was the friend’s toilet escape, where the ‘Aberdonian Idiot’ was forced to stare at his phone (silently thank GOD) until his pal returned. Yeah, yeah, I know kids will be kids and all that, but I am getting on a bit, I don’t have any kids (I never want any) and I have zero patience for the irritating ones.
After taking the final bite of my burger, the people sitting on the other side of me were leaving, so I squinted my chair around to let them out. It was a man and his young son. The boy must have been around 4 or 5 years old and he was carefully carrying his tray, making sure not to drop any rubbish on the floor. The father guided him to the bins and the boy tipped the tray very slowly, dropping the litter in the bin. He stood there for a few seconds, not sure what to do with the tray, gazing up at his Dad until he gently tapped the top of the bin, as if to say ‘it goes in here son’. The boy stood on his tip-toes and deposited the tray neatly on the shelf. I felt like I had just watched a graceful human manners ballet. It was a lovely people moment and I was beaming, my faith in the human race restored. The Dad caught me watching as they turned to the door and he inclined his head to me and smiled back.
My blissful moment was then permeated by the screaming of a less well-mannered child throwing a tantrum because his mother wouldn’t let him walk down the stairs. ‘Aaaaaaarrrrrggggggghhhhhh! I wanted to go down staaaaaaaiiiiiiirs!’ he wails, at full volume. The suitably mortified mother practically drags the kid across the floor by one arm and manages to get the front door open. The boy wobbles to his feet, but somehow manages to use his free hand to whack his mother on the back on the way out. I found this hilariously funny and burst out laughing. Opposite ends of the scale in the space of two minutes. You may accuse me of being a cynic, but I use this to present my case to anyone willingly considering Mother/Fatherhood. Clicky on ze linky.
This is my personal favourite These amusements make me feel very grateful that I don’t have any kids. I would get the screaming brat that hits me. I am quite happy with periodic shots of other people’s children, a day here, a weekend of babysitting there. Hand them back when they get whiny. That’s enough responsibility for me.
I know that I am not the only human that enjoys a good people watch. I wonder if there are/were people somewhere making up my story. I’ll bet a million pounds they would never get anywhere near the truth, but then neither did I, I suppose. Appearances can be deceptive and you should never judge a book by its cover. Everyone has at least one skeleton in their closet, but not everyone admits that. There is always something telling around the eyes though, but people watching is more like skimming, you never get close enough for a good peer into their soul.
On the way home, I continue to people watch from the window and I witness the insanity of people smoking from the warmth and comfort of the bus and I savour the pleasurable feeling of being a non smoker. I never thought I’d ever feel that way about smoking. I recall declaring to my friend once ‘I will never stop smoking, I love smoking and I love everything about it!’ I will have been stopped for a total of five whole years next week. Yay me.
No more standing huddled in doorways, shivering my cotton socks off, cursing the sadist who decided that banning smoking indoors was a good idea. Or wishing that I was in Japan and the Pub/Restaurant I was in had one of these:
Yes, these are actually real and EXIST. Japanese smoking pods. No need for them now, but they would have been affa handy a few years ago.
My bus journey ends and I begin the short walk home from the bus stop. I don’t encounter any people on the closing scene of my day, but I gaze up at the sky, as I often do and the night is clear and beautiful. I breathe cool evening air into my smoke free lungs and watch the stars winking out their celestial dance, and make a mental note to myself to learn more about the constellations, perhaps buy a telescope and swap people watching for stargazing for a while. I feel humbled by the wondrous vastness of our northern sky and grateful to be alive and in that present moment. Life can be really beautiful at times, you just need to be open to it. When you are open, beautiful things can be found in the most unexpected places, even in a fast food restaurant.
Peace out people. I wish you the sweetest dreams of beautiful things.