I am a professional people watcher. Mainly because it is the most interesting thing in the world, and slightly because I have adult ADD and I cannot focus. So no matter where I’m at, if I haven’t taken some medicine, my eyes dart around aimlessly like hockey pucks fixating on the most interesting, loud, or colorful things or people within eyesight.
By about Thanksgiving I was finished Christmas shopping. Still, I can’t resist the mall the week before Christmas. I would rather kill myself than fight all the crazies who are trying to frantically buy gifts for ten people three days before Christmas. The thought of digging through picked over merchandise, waiting in long lines, hoping for gift boxes that ran out a week ago, and being pushed over by speed walkers with twelve bags while mingling through crowds of people who are trying to be Christmassy but are incredibly cranky, sounds like torture. But people watching is fun. So while I have had absolutely no shopping to do this week, I have been to the mall three times.
Surprisingly, it is worth the 20 minute parking battle and the crazy shoppers, because this is the best people watching time of the year! Besides the normal frantic last minute types, families, cute kids (or spoiled kids) and other generically classic people to watch, there are some really unique, priceless moments to be found this time of the year. Beauty in the madness.
My favorite part of North Park mall in Dallas is this man who is always there working for the Salvation Army over Christmas. He is short, maybe 5’5, bald, well into his 60’s, and always wears a Santa hat and a bow tie. I think in his past life he must of played sax in a jazz band, that is what I always imagine. He stands right in the middle of the mall and sings, dances, and plays his tambourine. I mean literally he sings really loud, huge smile on his face, and does crazy little dance moves with his feet. It is an amazing spectacle, I could never do that, I would be SO nervous.
Kids gather around him and watch, sometimes slightly afraid, until he says, “Smile baby girl, it’s Christmas time!” And then he will do some crazy spin move and a tap dance step at the end, and the whole group of kids giggles. Grown-ups look at him and somewhere inside of themselves envy the fact that he doesn’t care what people think about him, envy his freedom, his joy, and his ability to be so flexible in his late 60’s and they just hand over their money like little kids in a candy store. I watch him, lost in his own world of joy, and I wonder what is going on in his mind? I wonder what it feels like to make so many people smile? I wonder where his joy comes from and if he still feels it when he lays his head down at night?
I keep walking.
My best moment at the mall today was an even older man. He seemed so out of place and his eyes were piercing, haunting. He was probably in his 80’s. Slightly hunched over and walking terribly slow. People were rushing all around him, and though he was tall and was probably once a muscular man, I was sure a hoard of teenagers or a power shopper would blow him over any second. Each step he took seemed to carry with it purpose and he seemed lost in a wave of old memories, oblivious to this new world around him that he would never be apart of. In his hand he held a single delicate bag with one beautifully wrapped gift. Red wrapping paper and a perfectly placed gold bow surrounded by magical tissue paper.
It was a foreign concept to me. One gift, one beautiful, specially chosen gift. For a person who spends lots of money and buys as many presents as I can for each person in my family, the concept of one gift was so different. This man ventured out into the midst of the craziness, into a world where he clearly did not belong, where he looked like he would be taken over at any minute by a madhouse he seemed to have never been in, all to get one beautiful gift. I wondered what it was? This one gift that he had some young girl wrap for him in beautiful paper, that he left his world and came into ours for...what was it?
Who would get such a beautiful gift? The idea of one beautiful, thoughtful, perfect little gift never sounded better. I wanted to be the person he gave it to, just to see what his eyes looked liked when he gave it. I left thinking his eyes would light up as his granddaughter or wife opened the most perfect gift to ever be given, then he would take a final breath in and die, because he was old and he had just given the perfect gift and he did not want to go to that mall again.
I kept walking.
Then just the usual. The lady with too much make-up on and too many plastic surgeries on her cell phone not looking at anyone else as she plowed through people with her Neiman Marcus bags. The wife who has dressed all four kids, girls and boys, in matching clothes to see Santa, and is balancing a million things while her oblivious husband looks into the air and does nothing. The cute lovers. The old people in the cafe drinking their coffee and talking at a decibel loud enough for the North Pole to hear. And the weird person who has now come and sat uncomfortably too close to me in Starbucks and is watching me write. Why sit so close to me on a couch when there is a whole store full of chairs open? I have to move now because I have the bejeebies. People watching is only fun at a distance, there are rules for this sort of thing, and this chick is way too close.
There is not a real point to this entry. Sometimes I just like watching people. Like the movie Love Actually, Hugh Grant talks in the beginning about people watching in airports and how beautiful it is to see so much love, and the beauty that people possess. Turns out people are not annoying, they are just people. All shapes, sizes, and temperaments are beautiful, funny, intriguing, unique, full of love, full of some good. Even when they are cranky or hurried or slow or stupid (stupid people are a little harder for me to love, I admit, but really, how hard can it be to figure out the revolving door???) there is still something beautiful in each person if you snoop around for it.
So maybe you should people watch today. Look at people's smiles. Watch someone grab another persons hand and hold it. Watch a grandpa pick up his granddaughter and give her a big kiss. Watch the world around you...right now it is chaotic, but there is always, ALWAYS, beauty in the madness.