Weekend people-watching

I didn't take any people-watching pictures, so have this lovely picture of clouds I took last week.

I didn’t take any people-watching pictures, so have this lovely picture of clouds I took last week.

I did some people-watching this Sunday in my neighborhood. I wanted to get out of my apartment but was too lazy to go for a walk so I took a book to a nearby coffee shop and sat in the window with a hot chocolate for a couple hours. I drink hot chocolate year-round, no shame, but it’s nice that the weather is starting to be hot chocolate-appropriate.

And apparently it’s no longer iced coffee weather, as I heard the barista tell at least three different customers during my visit. Part of the fun of sitting in the café for so long was watching the flow of customers. When I arrived there was a group of women in their late twenties or early thirties catching up happily over their drinks. After they left it was quieter, but the quiet was punctuated periodically by a dad with a small helmeted boy bearing a wheeled transportation device. No, not the same dad and kid over and over – three different ones, each with a scooter or child-sized bike.

Other customers walked up with dogs and would leave them outside while they ordered, either tied to the fence or with a friend. One white, fluffy dog was so cute I was tempted to walk outside and ask its owner to be my friend so I could play with it. This is an urge that comes on fairly often in Brooklyn, but one that I’ve so far been able to resist acting on.

This is probably a silly observation, but, the neat thing about staying put and people-watching, rather than wandering around, is the sheer number of people who pass by. Lots of couples and parents with kids – not at all surprising in my neighborhood – but also people with groceries or in exercise clothes, people ready to stop at the stoop sale just a bit over from the coffee shop. Just people, out and about living their lives on a sunny September Sunday.

In one of Madeleine L’Engle’s memoirs she talks about that first moment of awareness when she realized that other people were separate from her, that that woman over there would never know her, and she would never know her. In New York we’re surrounded by strangers at all times – a lot of people don’t know their neighbors, and even if we do, one ride on the subway exposes us to dozens of people we’ll never meet. So yeah, I’m aware that other people are separate from me and are living their lives independent of mine.

But people-watching in a coffee shop makes those faceless strangers a little more sympathetic, a little more specific. They’re not just the random guy and kid I pass on the street, they’re a father and son who had that funny little conversation before they headed out the door. They’re the two friends or coworkers of the barista who came in an hour or so apart and separately filled her in on their plans for the evening. Or the cute guy with the laptop who sat turned toward the wall, maybe in an effort to forget about the beautiful day outside and focus on his work.

Hopefully no one was paying too much attention to me sitting in the window, because I definitely started to nod off once or twice. I’m blaming the lovely party I’d been at the night before and the warm sunshine that was coming through the window. Still embarrassing? Absolutely. But probably not as bad as the many post-lunch lectures in college I couldn’t keep my eyes open in.

Did you do any people-watching on this almost autumn weekend? What were the best things you saw or overheard?

PS Looking for something to do this weekend? Bryant Park’s square dance is back on Friday and Saturday nights from 6 to 9, and Sunday from 1 to 4. Check it out!


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