Thursday, March 13, 2014

Noticing People


There's a game we play in Chicago during rush hour called "How Many People Can Physically Fit on This Train?".  As a whole, we're surprisingly good at it.  And it's really a lot of fun (unless you're playing with someone who's particularly gassy).

Yesterday morning, I played an exciting round with the good people of the Orange Line and it was my turn to be "That Annoying Girl Who Smooshes Herself into a Stranger's Back or Else She'll Have to Wait for the Next Train and It'll Make Her Late."  (That is one role where I really excel, if I say so myself.)

As I stood there in my 5 square inch space, two things crossed my mind.  I first reflected on how inconvenient it was that my arm was falling asleep, because I literally could not move it.  The second was that I had been on the train for ten minutes but if someone had asked me to describe the guy whose face was less than six inches from mine... I couldn't.

You'd think that moving to a city would overwhelm a person with all of the different types of people you confront in a typical day, but it's actually the opposite.  Since moving to the city, people in general become less and less noticeable.

Sure, you notice that there is something in your way in the express lane at Walmart but the only thing that really registers is that not everyone has the same opinion on what constitutes "ten items or less."  And yeah, you're vaguely aware that there is a living, breathing thing moving infuriatingly slow in front of you on the sidewalk outside of your office... but all you're really thinking about is how you can maneuver around it so you won't be late.

I don't feel guilty about it.  Acknowledging each and every person in a city like Chicago would be overwhelming and exhausting.  Plus, I just don't like people that much.

But every once in a while, it's nice to consciously notice the people around me.  First, because every so often, you're lucky enough to spot an old person playing Flappy Bird.

But also because it helps me keep my sanity.  I'll look at the girl meandering incomprehensibly slow in front of me, I mean really look at her, and see her as a person who looks just as tired as I feel.  Maybe she spent all night fighting with her boyfriend and now doesn't have the energy to do anything more than sorrowfully drag herself to work as she listens to the Dashboard Confessional Pandora station.

Of course, she might be hungover.  Or just really bad at walking.

But when I start thinking about the annoying people as people instead of annoyances, sometimes it gets easier to deal with all of the annoying things that they do.  I'll never know why Ms. Mosey left her sense of urgency at home, but thinking about her as an actual person with a whole life I don't know about can make her a little easier to deal with.

But of course, this doesn't always work.  Sometimes, I'm hungry and would rather just give her an elbow on the way by.  No one's perfect.

Pre-Friday, and it never felt so good.
Also, if you have time, watch this video.  I swear that it changed my life.  Or at least changed my attitude enough that I had something to post about today.



Want more tea? Have a second cup!
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