In 1992 Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson invented the phrase The Best Things In Life Are Free – in the same way that HRH Alexandra Burke invented the phrase Elephant In The Room. And I firmly believe they were inspired to come to this conclusion when they realised that people watching is truly one of life’s finest pleasures. And it doesn’t cost a penny! Unfortunately we can add people watching to the ever growing list of unexpected casualties of C*VID-19 and boy do I miss it!
This is not me coming out as a voyeur, keep your peeping Tom allegations to yourself, I have a reputation to uphold. I am simply saying that when the juicy bits that we like to keep neatly tucked behind closed doors spill out in to public spaces my endorphins have a field day. When your business becomes public it becomes our business. The authenticity of it! The drama of a full blown argument taking place in a Lidl carpark when you’re close enough to hear 90% of the insults being flung from one trolley to another, but far away enough to avoid direct eye contact. God forbid you break the fourth wall and become part of the ruckus.
If you are new to the people watching game, I’m afraid you have come at a difficult time for us as a community. A lockdown induced dry spell if you will. The more time we spend inside the fewer opportunities we have to stick our noses into the lives of others. And let’s be real, virtual people watching on Zoom simply does not cut it. If you’re anything like me you spend 90% of your time watching yourself anyway.
However, if you are interested in doing the exact opposite of minding your own business and joining the people watchers, then may I suggest a few beginner friendly hints and tips to ease you in gently?
- Utilise the mask sis! First time people watchers tend to give themselves away when their jaws hit the floor at even the tamest public drama. You can gawp in peace behind the comfort of a mask, just remember to blink a few times to keep up the charade.
- I’d love to advise some prime people watching spots but you have to understand, it’s a very organic experience. Just sit back relax and let the entertainment come to you. One of my favourite heart warming people watching experiences came when I got to witness a whole marriage proposal take place in Soho square. It even included the future Bridesmaids maniacally sprinkling rose petals and lighting candles ten minutes before the Bride to be arrived. She said yes by the way!
- Finally, one for when you are approaching the pro levels of people watching. Be bold, be confident, take the narrative in to your own hands. Especially if you’re lucky enough to have a partner in crime it’s time get creative. You can assign character names, back stories and plot twists, inventing entire worlds for a stranger that walked in to your life 30 seconds prior and is likely to walk on out of your life forever in the next 20. Just please, for your own sake, be subtle (ideally refer to tip No.1).
Maybe I am extremely nosey or maybe I just miss seeing people in all their lovely fleshy glory instead of their pixellated, semi-frozen misery. Both are totally plausible. I for one am counting down the days until I can be a secret spectator of my favourite show of all time: this weird and wonderful spectacle we call life. Shot gun front row seats!