Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Rhetoric of People-Watching

My dear Imaginary Reader, do you like series? I sincerely hope you do, because they give me a little structure to think of things to say, and in case you didn't know it, we're currently in the middle of a series of things that occurred to me while walking on the trail by my apartment.

The thing about taking a stroll on a trail is that you're almost never the only person on that trail. You see other people, and they see you. And since you're just taking a walk just to clear your mind and retrieve your brain, your thoughts are wandering quite a bit, so you start thinking about the people you see and making assumptions about them.

Today, for example, I saw the same woman three times. She looked to be about middle-aged, a little on the plump side, dressed all in black. The first time I saw her, I was wondering if she felt as self-conscious about using her umbrella as I did, because it was on that fine line between drizzling and not. The second time I saw her, she was in a hurry and she looked upset. I started hypothesizing all these random ideas about why she was rushing back the way she came. Maybe she'd just lost track of time, or maybe she'd gotten a phone call and something was wrong, or maybe...

Anyway, I didn't really want my walk to end, so I took an odd loop on my way back, and just as I was finishing up my loop, who do I see coming my way? That same lady. And for her to have gotten to that loop, she had to have turned around again, so we smiled at each other with the sort of mutual realization that, yes, we were both just sort of wandering the trail at random. And it occurred to me that she's very pretty when she smiles.

My point in telling this little story is that I do a lot of people-watching. Maybe it comes from being a writer, but I'm always supposing random circumstances and reasonings for the people around me. I think it's because of that that I always assume everyone who sees me in public is assuming all sorts of things about me, so I get paranoid when I'm walking and suddenly remember something or change my mind and turn around and walk the other way for no real visible reason. I'm just certain that the other people in the store, or wherever I am, must think there's something wrong with me.

And I guess that's the Gaze the book was talking about, isn't it?

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