March 2, 2006
People like to watch things.
Birders don hats and binoculars and grab their detailed, colorful books. Star Trek fans get into costume to watch their favorite show. And NASCAR fans, well, I’m not sure I want to know what they do.
As for me, I am the type of person who likes to watch other people.
I’ve been a people-watcher all my life. I was one of those kids who stares — lot. Now that I’m grown — in age, not height — I commonly attract children’s stares. My mother says it’s because they think I am one of them. In my heart, though, I know it’s because we’re kindred, stare-loving spirits.
People-watching in Steamboat is great because most people here are a lot better looking than the people in Wichita, Kan., where I lived last. Maybe the mountain air makes hair thicker and cheeks redder, I don’t know.
Winter Carnival gave me a good feast for the eyes. From my vantage point in a downtown restaurant, I could eat eggs and watch people at the same time (bonus points). I saw children on sleds, dogs dragging children on sleds and dogs getting into rumbles while tossing around children on sleds. Luckily for the children, I also saw dog owners untangling the sleds.
I also like keeping an eye on people on the ski mountain. The snowboarders always look cool, but the skiers often look dorky (Note: I ski). It’s kind of hard not to look dorky when you’re clomping down Gondola Square in boots that don’t bend.
I saw more unusual sights in Wichita. Part of that may be because I was the newspaper’s nighttime crime reporter, so nearly everything seemed kind of shady because I knew a little too much about what went on in town.
Shady or not, every city is host to some strange sightings now and then. I was driving down the street in Wichita one day when I saw a very tall figure. When I got closer, I realized it was a man carrying a chair over his head as if the Queen of England were under his care.
My favorite place to watch people is the airport, especially large ones. There are always the usual suspects: the hurried businesspeople, the parents with endless children in tow and, of course, the lady who wore fancy stilettos at the expense of not being able to walk down the terminal. I always hope she trips.
The best place I’ve ever watched people was in an airport in Miami. I will disclose that the observations were clouded by my age –16, when everything seemed a little more interesting. I swear I saw Carmen Miranda’s cousin walking down the terminal, complete with a fruit-patterned rolling bag.
The worst part of people-watching is getting caught. Once noticed, you have a couple of choices: quickly look away, smile or pretend you were looking beyond.
Of course, there is a fourth choice: Do something unexpected. This is only for the brave. The unexpected could include winking, smiling or picking your nose.
I have never been crazy enough to do any of those things. In my book, being a people-watcher is weird enough.