Watching people – By @bbrice01

By Becky Brice

Watching people

I love people watching. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it to be honest, but I think I take it to an extreme. I often channel Roz from Monsters Inc, ‘Always watching’. I watch people whenever I can without looking too creepy. This week I took it slightly further by braving the crowded streets of Oxford Street a couple of days before Christmas. Now, I hate crowds. Anyone who saw my stand up set will attest to the fact that people weaving aimlessly in front of me when I want to get somewhere tests my patience. So Oxford Street at Christmas would seem like a stupid idea but I thought it was the perfect opportunity to observe people.

I saw a whole host of characters. Firstly, a homeless man. He was lying on the ground surrounded by an assortment of ‘gifts’. They were presented as gifts, but seemed a little strange from where I was. A Tupperware of what looked like melon, although I don’t trust my eyesight because it seems too odd. I watched as a lady offered him a cigarette before descending into the underground. He was already smoking one at the time so carefully laid it down next to him. It was clear from the array of objects and foods around him that people felt guilty this time of year. I didn’t know how to feel, watching a man who clearly had very little, surrounded by fairly meaningless donations, however well meaning they were.

I then walked down a road full of ‘luxury retailers’, each adorned with beautiful light displays for the Christmas period. Security guards stood at every entrance waiting to greet or intimidate. I watch them as they watch me, wondering what kind of salary I’m on and whether I can afford to step inside. Of course I can’t. One day I’ll have my Pretty Woman moment, but not this year and I continue on.

It wasn’t long until I saw the first man in distress. Inside John Lewis I see a man sitting on a stool in the shoe department, head in hands. On closer inspection he looked more tired than anything, and seemed to be keeping calm so I left him to give lackluster feedback to his partner.

On the street outside I was treated to a multitude of smells, sights and sounds. Most notable sound was one of those bike taxi things, blaring Arabic sounding music out, with driver and passengers singing along at full pelt. The only issue being the traffic was moving relatively slowly which made their performance slightly awkward. It’s hard to keep the energy up when you’re stationary, singing to the same confused audience. They made people smile though, and were a welcome interval to the stress of Christmas shopping.

I was only out for a few hours that evening but I managed to see enough characters to write a number of short or medium length stories. As much as I love to watch as the world goes by, I don’t usually write anything down. Going over my notes this time I remembered little incidents that I would have otherwise forgotten about. As well as being a weird little hobby, I think this kind of exercise could help create personas to make working on a brief where the target audience is not me a little less daunting. Dare I say it, I think that may have been the point when Marc suggested it…

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