An hour spent watching people go by – By @petranandersson
By Petra Andersson
An hour spent watching people go by
To me Christmas means several hours in the car, roaming through the countryside from one relative to another. Unfortunately, I tended to get sick after about 20 minutes. If we didn’t have to pull over, there was constant whining over how nauseous I felt. My parents tried everything – colouring books, chewing gums, chocolate bribes. But the only thing that helped was listening to Harry Potter audiobooks and making up stories about the people we passed.
This Christmas is a little bit different though. After my grandmother died the hours in the car have shrunk considerably. In order to keep up some of the traditions, I decided to go people watching right by the high street of my hometown. And even though we’re only about 1,5 percent of the population of London, there was a lot of activity going on.
I felt quite strange as I sat down next to the window in the café. The tables with coffee beans underneath sheets of glass still looked exactly like they did 10 years ago, even though so much has changed. But I soon feel less self-conscious as I start to soak in what’s happening around me. The first thing I notice is the well-familiar thick accent with the drawn-out vocal sounds. A sound that makes Stockholmers shudder and flee the countryside, and I smile and feel at ease. Soon the café started filling up with shopping bags, wet coats and people. And the obligatory baby cries fill the air.
Next to me sits a couple of sisters that looks like opposites. One has black hair, piercings and a black hoodie, and the other one is blonde and wearing a pink lace shirt. One goes to bed at 6 am and the other one at 10 pm. They agree that some things stay the same. One of them has just sold her car and complains about spending 20 minutes on the bus. “Try the London underground,” I think to myself. She works as a caretaker but is still a temp. Just like I used to do during the summers at Uni. I wondered what’d happened if I stayed.
Three boys with identical beanies pass the window. They order frappuccinos that probably contains more chocolate than coffee. I hear their voice-breaking laughter as I look out on the street again.
I try to imagine where everyone’s going, but it’s difficult in the constant flood of people. It starts raining, and the pace increases even more. Most of them talk more with their phones than with each other. Except for the grandparents and grandkids, who also seems to be the happiest. A few of the busy shoppers look longingly through the windows of the travel agency with package deals to Mallorca.
The sisters have left and a couple on a Tinder date take their seats. She declares that the looks aren’t everything. He mumbles something about personalities and that he loves a beautiful smile. She smiles and laughs about four times during his next mumbled line. She’s start fiddling with the candle in what looks like an attempt to make him take her hand. As I put my coat on, she starts talking about a date she had with a girl in Peru. He makes comments in all the right places and encourages her to tell him more. I think to myself that she’d be better off with the girl from Peru as I walk out the door.