I have always been a curious sort of person. I don’t mean curious as in odd or strange. Hmm, maybe I’m that too. But this time, I mean I’m a people-watcher. I can and have gone to a shopping center or sat on a wrought-iron park bench or settled on a concrete seat in a playground and watched pedestrians do whatever they do on the street all day. I’ve been known to spend a lunch hour or longer people-watching. Time just seems to fly by when I do it. I’m imagining what their lives might be like away from the shopping malls, parks, playgrounds, and lunchrooms, where I first see them.
If I’m not close enough to hear their conversations, I make them up. I see a kid being disciplined by his nanny for jumping mid-way from the metal slide instead riding all the way down to the end. His jump barely misses hitting another kid’s head as she kneels next to the slide fixing a loose sneaker. I wonder what his mother and father do? They probably have a nice income to be able to afford a nanny. Then I wonder if the nanny is being paid under the table. Does the nanny have medical insurance? Will the nanny have social security when she retires? Or will she be like one of the older women I see in the park, pushing baby strollers with children obviously not theirs. These nannies look old enough to be retired and chill-laxing the day away at a senior center playing cards and drinking pina coladas. Instead, at sixty-something, they are running after somebody else’s kids.
A young couple walks by my bench, holding hands and touching shoulders. They only have eyes and words for each other. They speak in whispers and soft sighs. It’s obvious to anyone looking that they are in love. The female of the couple stops to point at a chubby round-faced little boy learning to walk, whispering her partner. The adorable little guy has an unstable, stiff-legged gait that reminds me of a mini Frankenstein. He also reminds me of my own son when he was learning to take his first steps years ago. Her partner rolls his eyes heavenward and says something to her. I’m imagining the young woman telling her partner how cute the little boy is. Then she tells him how she wants a baby just like him after they marry. Or they are newly married. She wants a baby now. His answering eyeroll says, Let’s wait to start a family. She sighs loudly but continues to watch the little boy with a wistful look. Her partner tugs on her arm, signaling, Let’s go. The couple finally walks further into the park. They seem a little less in love. I imagine the “child thing” is an old argument between the couple. Will he leave her? Will she leave him? I wonder if they’ll resolve the issue of children and how they will.
As the couple disappears into the park, a man is being pulled and tugged in my direction by five hyper-energetic yapping dogs. Staring at the dogs, the first thing I think is, Those dogs need to calm down. The next thing I think is, I sure hope he’s got a tight grasp on those leashes. Two of the dogs look like pit bulls. Another dog is a collie. A fourth dog is German Shepard. The fifth dog is an Akita. The next thing I think is, None of those dogs are little mini dogs with good manners. Then I wonder, How fast can I run if any of those big dogs gets loose? The way the dogs are hopping around, pulling and getting tangled in the leads, getting loose and running wild seems like a real possibility. I rise slowly and cautiously from my seat on the bench and leave the park. My people-watching time is over for that day.
I enjoy telling stories that most folks never hear. Wherever I go in the city, I see stories that need somebody to tell them. I decided I could be one of the storytellers. It’s been over fifteen years since I made that decision. I haven’t stopped looking for those stories. I haven’t stopped telling them either. Most important, I haven’t regretted my decision to become a storyteller.
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