An ode to people watching


Sofia Hargis-Acevedo

This was taken in the National Museum of Art in Washington D.C.

This is an ode to people watching.

It is the art of observation; the art of soaking up your surroundings. It takes much practice to take in every minute detail. This is mostly because the term “people watching” is partially misleading. The task takes listening—listening to what everyone else is listening to. It takes breathing—breathing in the scents that everyone else is breathing in. 

The problem here is that to say that this is an ode to people watching is too broad. There are a plethora of ideas that people watching can pertain to. 

Instead, this is an ode to the man wearing his school colors, deep maroon and mustard yellow. The name of the school is fuzzy in my mind, but it was plastered across his sweatshirt and mask. He was looking intently at his phone; it could be an intriguing article or an intense round of a game he is playing, but that is left up to my imagination.

So, this is an ode to the people watchers—the people who take time to understand the lives of others. ”

It is an ode to the woman sitting behind me on the phone. I didn’t get a good look at her, but I heard the distress in her voice. She had prepared what sounded like a delicious omelet stuffed with fresh vegetables and a side of bacon, but she didn’t have enough time to eat it before she left. I felt bad. She seemed truly upset that she couldn’t enjoy her breakfast that morning, and I hope she found some time later to enjoy herself with a delightful meal with all the time in the world.

It is an ode to the couple visiting the National Museum of Art. The woman was wearing long, pink, flowy pants, a pale green shirt, and a tan jacket over top. The man sported khaki pants with a deep red sweatshirt that had some sort of college logo embroidered across the front. They dressed as if they knew what they were looking at, what they were talking about. They acted like they did as well. They were modest and kept their voices to a small murmur, unlike some of the people who spoke loudly and acted as if they were art extraordinaires. The couple snapped pictures of their favorite pieces on a small black camera. I envy them. I wish I was as knowledgeable in a specific topic like they are. For now, I’ll just watch and listen and soak up every ounce of information until I can see myself in their shoes.

It is an ode to the two women at the train station. One woman had golden locks that fell in perfect ringlets in front of her face. She wore khaki cargo pants and a gray and green sweatshirt. The woman she was with had dark brown hair with soft, subtle waves. She wore a maroon long-sleeved shirt and dark blue jeans. Both women had neutral-colored cloth masks that complimented their outfits. It was fascinating to watch them converse. They spoke through American Sign Language, and their hand gestures were mesmerizing. They were so engaged with one another—their eyes never left the other’s face. I can’t remember the last time I had a conversation this genuine. Either one, or both of us, would have our attention stolen by something we see as more important than the person in front of us.

This is an ode to the intricate art of observation. With much practice, people can catch simply a minute glimpse into someone’s life, whether it be from their body language, their clothes, or what they are telling others. 

It takes a vast amount of grace to master the act of people watching. So, this is an ode to the people watchers—the people who take time to understand the lives of others. 

Without them, what stories would there be to tell?