There’s something beautifully serene about watching people, particularly on trains amidst empty water bottles and leftover copies of the Metro and Evening Standard. As interesting and well-written as the aforementioned newspapers might be, they don’t quite capture the electrifying essence of people watching.
To begin with, my eyes are inevitably drawn to people’s hands as I determine whether they are married or not. Fashion sense is quietly observed amidst questions like “Is that a real Louis Vuitton handbag or did they buy a cheap copy from a European market?” And I am reminded once again of how many mothers had to endure painful labours to bring all these fascinating individuals into the world. And of course, there are the stereotypes who always seem to find themselves on public transport (namely tubes) in one way or another. For starters, there’s the overly made-up girl who continues to lather more make-up onto her already tangoed face with the help of a pocket-mirror. Next, there’s the girl with the killer heels and short skirt with all the cellulite who is appropriately stood in front of a slightly larger than life middle-aged man who can’t fit his bum cheeks onto just one seat. The dude with the overly-loud “Dubstep” pumping out of his iPod is leaning against the window. There’s the guy with the backpack who bumps into everyone he walks past because he forgot he’s wearing it. There’s the happy family with the two children who repeatedly ask “How long till we get there?” and the father whose discourse revolves around the cultural relevance of Covent Garden when none but his wife are listening. There’s the man with awful B.O. who is holding onto one of the hand rails above him and another man who seems to stare at peoples bags and phones a lot. There’s the old woman who is offered a seat by a charming young man dressed head to toe in Calvin Klein. There’s the person walking around asking for spare change. There’s the person reading the “look at me I’m so intelligent” book. There’s also the Spanish couple who divide their time between locking lips and talking in their own language because they don’t think anyone else can understand them. There’s the person attempting to check their phone, despite being underground. There’s the creepy man who stares at you continuously, but doesn’t think you’ve noticed. Next there’s the person who asks whether the train is going via Moorgate when it definitely isn’t. The mid-morning hen party stragglers who end up swearing every other word take pride of place in the middle of the carriage. And finally, there’s the person who you’re hoping doesn’t get off at the same stop as you because somewhere in your wildest of thoughts, you think they might kidnap you.
This morning in London I found myself on a District line tube at 8:30 and encountered the oddest bunch of individuals. Sat in front of me was a striking young woman sewing a vast patchwork quilt; and she was sewing it in such a way that you’d think she was using it as a means of getting over a boy who once broke her heart. Her hands appeared to shake a little and her eyes seemed particularly self-conscious. On the opposite side of the aisle, one man was taking up three seats as he lay sleeping, much to the annoyance of the passengers left standing. He was using his puffa jacket almost as a sleeping bag, bunched tightly around his face so that you could see little more than two eyes and a nose peeping out. Beside him sat a man eating a pasty who proceeded to open a can of beer. Perhaps he was living in a different time-zone, or perhaps he got his “am” and “pm” muddled up; or perhaps he just likes a nice warm can of beer for breakfast. I’m passing no judgement. Standing up was a business-woman on her way to work who stared angrily at the tube-slummer for occupying the three seats and proceeded to take a picture of the culprit on her phone. Whether she intended to use the photo to warrant a complaint or share it with some of her high-brow colleagues, I shall never know. And finally, sat next to me was a handsome (albeit slightly hung-over) gentleman silently reading a copy of the Metro as he balanced an extremely delicate plate between his legs.
And then there’s me, idling my time away as I create ulterior lives for each passenger as they unknowingly pursue their travels.
Watch this space.