The Dark Side of People Watching


Awhile back I wrote an article called “The Art of People Watching” and I described the proper way to observe others and have fun doing it. Since then I’ve been sharpening my skills, but have learned in the process that the Art of People Watching is not all sunshine and rainbows. Today is an example, and I’ll be glad to share it with you. While a friend waited in line at the pharmacy today, I kept my eyes peeled for interesting folks, and was not disappointed.

The plump woman standing in front of my friend was pushing a shopping cart, but there was nothing in the bowels of it. This in itself is nothing unusual, except that I think the only thing she intended to use it for was a prop. It was doing a fine job in that respect, as she leaned half her body over it while flipping through a clothing catalog, but as I looked closer at the cart it seemed to be straining under her enormous weight. Either the metal was beginning to warp beneath her, or it had been used to move a house prior to this. In the small area usually reserved for children I saw what I thought at first was a thirty gallon garbage bag but turned out to be her purse. She kept dipping her hand into it and extracting something that I can only guess was some sort of food, because it went into her mouth with the speed of a cobra striking its prey and I was able to catch a glimpse of something orange. I tried to detect any stains on her fingers or mouth in an attempt to prove my theory that the snack was cheese puffs, but her lightening-like reflexes eluded my casual observations. Next to her purse was a two liter of Diet Mountain Dew (further evidence that she was trying to offset a high caloric intake), and from time to time she lifted it to her face, wrapped her inner tube-sized lips around the mouth and inhaled a draught, all with the ease and grace of a prima donna ballerina, or a pregnant yak – I’m not sure which.

When I was able to pry my bulging orbs from this spectacle, I spotted a young mother and her daughter in the headache aisle. The woman was poring over the five hundred choices of pain relief in front of her while her little girl curled up her tiny body and squeezed it in one of the shelves between boxes of blood pressure machines and diabetes testing kits. I immediately had to fight the urge to get up, walk over to where the child was crouched and ask in a loud voice, “How much for the little girl?” with visions of Jake Blues in my head. As I fantasized about the reaction this might bring, I saw the darling girl shove her forefinger into her nose, seemingly all the way to the third knuckle, dig around as if panning for gold, and then withdrew her digit and inspected whatever it was on the end of it before slipping the same finger into her mouth. I fought the urge to empty the contents of my breakfast all over the waiting room area of the pharmacy while actually longing to watch the circus lady in front of my friend, and shifted my wretched attention to the child’s mother, only to see the woman mimicking the actions of her little girl, oblivious to the crowd around her. The fruit indeed did not fall far from that tree, I mused, forcing myself to look away even as my morbid mind wondered if the duo ever shared their treasures with each other in private.

One aisle over in the constipation section stood an old man and what was obviously his wife. I say obviously, because I cannot imagine any man having to put up with the verbal pummeling he was privy to without being married. The woman had a bottle of pills in her meaty hand and was reading the ingredients to him as if it were a passage from the bible. I could tell right away from the haggard look of bored acceptance on his face that he had been subject to her voice for years, and I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance between his appearance and the pictures I had seen of Holocaust survivors. Indeed, as I heard the woman’s droning from over thirty feet away, I had the overwhelming urge to slice my wrists with whatever sharp object was within arm’s length. I instinctually knew that if I were to suddenly walk up to him and put a gun to his forehead, he would look at me as if I were the Angel of Mercy and cry, “Thank God!” My eyes began to bleed just seeing the torture in his countenance, and I had to divert my gaze to my own hands to keep from weeping out loud.

I stayed that way for the rest of the time there, afraid to look up lest my eyes found themselves locked helplessly to one of the theaters of the grotesque transpiring around me. Finally my friend pulled me from my tiny prison of a vantage point and I almost swooned from gratitude upon seeing the front doors. People watching can be fun – don’t get me wrong – but sometimes it can be downright horrifying.

About jaytharding
Christian Mystic-in-training, burgeoning Apologist, Writer, Poet, Philosopher, all-purpose curmudgeon Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 11 Corinthians 5:17

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