No, not bird watching, people watching.

Yes, you heard me right. People watching.

I have always liked watching people, but I’d never noticed that I even did it until my Grandma said something about how when she went to concerts and parades and those sorts of places, she enjoyed “people watching.” Ever since then I’ve realized that, YES, people watching is fun! (Warning: At times, it takes a bit of imagination.)

One of my cousins once asked me what activity that wasn’t already a sport should be made a sport. I had no answer for him then, because if even chess is a sport, what else is there to be made into one?

Well, I have an answer now.

People watching.

It would make a neat sport…trying to figure out what this person is doing here and why, whether or not they have all their debts paid off, and why there is big black Newfoundland dog in the back of their pickup.

I was out on our front porch, sitting on our porch swing. (Notice that I was sitting, not swinging. You can only swing sideways on that thing since it’s positioned so strategically [not!] that if you swing forward and back, you’ll hit the living room windows behind you.)

ANNNNNYways.

I was watching the cars drive by and, being the snoop that I am, I was straining to see in their windows.

How many kids do they have? I would think to myself. Oh, they have two kids and five dogs. Nice. Not. Woah, I wonder who owns that lime green jeep that just ran the stop sign. I wonder if the driver is that pink-haired-with-black-highlights girl’s boyfriend…the one who’s sitting in the passenger seat with her feet up in the windshield. And that little dog on her lap looks like it’s ears are about to fly off it’s head. 

And say, I wonder if that loud-speaking lady in the gas station parking lot is going home to a nice clean house or to a junky apartment with McDonald’s paper sacks lining the walls. I wonder how old she was when she got that tattoo, and if she’s sorry now that she has it. Does she have a kind husband, a nasty husband, or no husband at all? How many kids, if any, does she have?

That lady in the jogging suit over there… Is that kid in the stroller hers, or is the lady a nice auntie taking her niece/nephew out for a jog? And why is she jogging anyway? If she loses any more weight, she’ll fly away with the next gust of wind!

And that lady with the bandanna on her head…the one who’s walks by our house almost every day. Why does she never smile, even when I smile at her? Is she sad or lonely? Where does she live? What does she do for a living? Or is she retired? Is she rushing home to make supper for her man when he comes home starving, or is she just in a hurry to get off the street and away from my prying eyes? How many kids does she have? Are they rebellious? Is that why she’s so sad?

Once I saw a girl while we were laser tagging with our cousins. She looked like she could be sweet and kind to the people that she loved, but was most likely cold and distant to those she thought annoying or in the way. She had a nice jaw and pretty eyes, and she had a regal — if a bit disdainful — air about her. I named her Gavrielle (it was the perfect name for her), and I still pray for her when I think of it.

Then there was a waiter that reminded me of Nicolae Carpathia from the Left Behind movies. I still call him Nicolae, and I pray for him too.

Is that strange? Praying for people you don’t even know, people you will, in all likelihood, never see again? Praying for a little girl in Walmart whose jeans and flip-flops are far too big? Praying for the lady who walks by our house every day, the one who looks so sad all the time? Some people think it’s not strange, and others stare at me wondering whether I came from Pluto or Mars. (I came from neither, just so you know. I came from Jupiter. Ha! Kidding.)

As if you haven’t figured out by now, I LOVE people watching, even though it makes me sad sometimes as I see how much of this imperfect world is mirrored in those people’s eyes.

But then, people watching doesn’t have to be sad. There are people out there that I don’t even know who can still make me laugh when I watch them interact with each other. I love seeing families shopping together or taking pictures of each other.

Are those two girls sisters, cousins, or friends? And what are they laughing about? Are they…are they laughing at ME? Well, I suppose they have good reason, since I have powdered sugar from my funnel cake splattered all over my face and ketchup all down the front of my shirt. I wonder if they always laugh like this or if they’re just putting on a show in front of all these people. And I have to wonder if they think it’s weird that I’m laughing with them even though I don’t know them or know even for sure WHAT they’re laughing at.

Oh, I bet that couple over there just got married! They look so happy. I hope their marriage lasts for a REALLY long time! 

Aw, look at that teenager giving a horsey ride to his little sibling. It’s nice to see that he’s not ashamed of being kind to his little brother/sister out in public. Is that his girlfriend right there? Oh, that’s too bad. He looks way too young for that. Oh, wait a minute! That’s his sister…they look way too much alike to NOT be sister and brother. Phew!

Oh, that guy over there is being really nice to his wife. He’s pushing the baby stroller for her instead of making her push it herself. And now he’s playing peek-a-boo with his little girl so that she won’t bother her mommy. That’s sweet.

That girl over there sure is nice to share her sucker with her puppy. But that’s gross. Like, really gross.

And when you people watch, you don’t have to stick with random people you don’t even know. Watch your friends or relatives. (Or both.) I know I enjoy watching my friends (certain ones more than others). I like watching the differences in their behavior when only their close friends are around or when grownups/grandparents are in the room. (Believe me, there’s a difference in the way they act!) I like trying to figure out what they’re thinking, even though I don’t always get it right. I enjoy knowing what certain expressions mean. I like seeing how they boss younger siblings when their mom isn’t around versus when she IS. (‘Cause there’s a huge difference there too!) It’s fun to know who is competitive and how long it takes them to get mad during a game. It’s fun to see which people are the ones who really value others’ opinions and which are the ones who really don’t care.

People watching can also turn into people listening, if you aren’t careful. Once I snuck (the spell-check says that “snuck” isn’t a word, but I’ll use it anyway, because it sounds better than “I sneaked into ______”) into my friends’ house and listened to a whole conversation between several of the friends and my brother on whether or not I was annoying. Brady and two of the others knew I was in there, but the other friend didn’t. But don’t worry…she answered all the questions right, and told my brother that I was no more annoying than HE was. (Ha!)

But I would be careful about the listening part. It’s not too smart, because usually eavesdropping only leads to trouble. Believe me, I know this from personal experience. Anyways, as far as I’m concerned, I would rather stick to the watching part [most of the time].

There are actually people I “know” from my adventures as a people watcher…as in, I see them around all the time, and I can tell you their names and ages (at least, the names and ages I’ve given them in my head). I “know” quite a few people who have NO CLUE who I am, and I actually have figured out some of their names and where they live. It all comes from being a snoop…er, ahem…a people watcher.

So, have I convinced you? Even if people watching never becomes a sport, you should try it out sometime. Or maybe you already have, and what I’m saying is all old news. Either way, it’s a lot of fun.

The long-aforementioned part about needing a good imagination for people watching comes in when you have to figure out what color of house this couple is going home to, whether that other couple has two cars or only one, and if that guy over there painted his red-and-white-and-black-and-blue-and-purple striped pickup all by himself.

Yep. People watching can get pretty wild.

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