Tuesday, March 6, 2012

People Watching

Sorry that I've been MIA for the last week, as I started a new job that is putting me through pretty rigorous training. I was in Denver last week, and I'll be in Detroit for the rest of this week. I promise that I will catch up on everyone's blogging. I feel so out of touch!

But spending many hours at the airport (four hours alone on Friday), there's only one thing I could do to help pass the time - people watch. I think 99.9999999% of all writers are people watchers. I eavesdrop, watch the mannerisms of complete strangers, and sometimes even take notes.

I find people fascinating, and I find that it's the subtle things that we do and say that makes each one of us unique. In my writing, it takes a lot of work to make characters real and three-dimensional. And I think people watching is a great way to do research.

Here are examples of people I took notes on just from four hours at Denver's airport:

Super Tall Nasal Guy. This dude was easily 6-foot-five. Lanky, but athletic looking. And the man had a really nice head of hair. Not just a lot of it, but well groomed. Sort of longer, combed, probably conditioned. Wearing workout clothes, but his expensive briefcase reeked of wealth. He was busy with his phone, preparing his sinus passages with constant nasal sprays. I think the guy was addicted to nasal spray.

Angry Woman. She was well dressed, professional. Her laptop and notebook were out, but she was having a personal conversation with her ex-boyfriend/husband. Not a good one. She was telling him that he was inconsiderate. Something about forgetting something - I think he had missed a very important occasion, and I believe it was a birthday party. Her voice was sharp, her left hand clutching a pen as if it were a dagger as she berated him.

Soldiers. One guy was maybe in his middle 40s, reading a book about nutrition.  He and the other young man were both in civilian attire, but I knew from their haircuts and camo briefcases they were military. A female in full camo uniform was with them, and she kept reading over the older guy's shoulder and asking how yogurt can help you get skinny. All the while, the young soldier was sucking down a big Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Judging from his lean physique, yogurt and losing weight were the furthest from his mind.

Bad Ass. I ate my turkey wrap sitting next to this dude at my gate. He looked like a cage fighter. Just ripped, and he kept scoping his surroundings as if he expected ninjas to jump out from behind the seats and attack him. His luggage consisted of only an old canvas backpack, which he opened to retrieve a jacket. When we lined up to board our plane, we watched a young couple with a crying infant go on ahead of us into the airbridge. The bad ass turned to me and said, "They're brave."

Drunk Dumbshit. The flight was overbooked, and I had the remaining open seat next to me. The "tardy" passenger came charging up the aisle, his briefcase open and his iPad nearly spilling onto the floor. After sticking his ass in my face as he shoved the case into the final space of compartment room in the bin across from me, he sat down and proceeded to make sure that his elbow spilled into my personal space throughout the two hour flight. He drank a beer, followed by six Bloody Marys. During descent, he decided that he was going to listen to his music despite being told to turn off all electronic devices. He decided to wrap his head with his jacket to conceal the ear buds, but his music was so loud, it was obvious was he was doing. Oh, and he looked absolutely ridiculous. I think he was listening to a John Fogerty song as we landed.

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As I make my way to the Motor City, I will do the best I can do visit all of you and catch up!


Matthew MacNish said...

People are fascinating. Characters - when done right - even more so. Thanks for sharing these, Jay!

Kelley said...

Haha. I spend lots of time in Airports too! Love people watching.

And yes, its inevitable that we will always get a seat next to 'that guy' whenever we fly ;)

farawayeyes said...

People, ya gotta love 'em.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Never knew Fogarty's was drinking music!
I think airports have the greatest mix of people on the planet.

Jay Noel said...

Matt: No problem. Just wanted to share what I do when bored at the airport. I think a lot of us do it!

Kelley: Isn't it fun? I always get stuck with the big slobs. Touching my leg the whole time. Ew.

Faraway: Most of 'em anyway.

Alex: Yeah, me neither. I guess it relaxed him. That and the big jacket wrapped around his head. Airports are like laboratories.

Julia Hones said...

Whenever I travel and visit big cities, I tend to do the same. I watch people and how they behave. It may even spark the idea for my next story.

David P. King said...

How did you know what my favorite airport pastime was? And I agree. I watch people. I study their faces, try to describe them, mostly when I have nothing better to do. That makes us writers kind of creepy. I even have a character who points this out in a book. Upped the creep factor.

I loved what Bad Ass said! :)

Cynthia said...

I am a total people watcher too. Thanks for sharing your observations. Some of them were quite entertaining to read.

Rusty Webb said...

Great stuff. I like people watching at the airport too. I had a several hour layover last time but a chatty lady sat beside me and stole my observation time. Glad you took notes.

Dafeenah said...

Congrats on the new job!! I love to people watch. Whenever I fly I always take a book or magazine and "read" but really I people watch. Better than reality tv lool

Jay Noel said...

Julia: Even just a stranger's mannerisms could be something you might use in your story.

David: It's fun watching two people talk and just pretending to inject your own conversation in there.

Cynthia: Thanks! Luckily I didn't share the one about the guy that took a big poop and didn't wash his hands.

Rusty: Other than read, what else is there to do during a long layover???

Dafeenah: Thanks so much. I bet TSA employees have great stories.

M Pax said...

Sounds like quite the treat at the aiport. People watching is fun. Hope you have some fun among all the training.

Mr. Shife said...

I feel like I am at the airport with you doing some people watching. Great descriptions, Jay. Hope the travels and training go well. Take care.

The Desert Rocks said...

Loved this post and I've found myself writing people notes when I'm bored in a doctor's waiting area. Cool stuff and let's see, do you fit into the bad ass category?

Milo James Fowler said...

Future characters in your novels, every one of them. The last time I was at the airport, somebody hacked my Google account. Gotta love free WiFi.

Jay Noel said...

Mary: Thanks so much. It's actually warm up here, but I think the bottom's going to fall out tomorrow and winter makes a comeback.

Shife: I think we'd have a lot of laughs watching people. Thanks bro.

Eve: Ha! You crack me up. I would be in the lame-o category.

Milo: I'm thinking I can do something with my drunk seatmate. And that's why I'm never using the free Wi-Fi in airports!

Ciara said...

I'm a total people watcher and I'm off to NYC tomorrow. I won't be online for four days. I'm not sure what will happen. :)

Melissa Bradley said...

People watching is one my most favorite things to do. I also like to give them stories like woman in purple at The Gap is a secret agent waiting for her connection who is so small, he can pass for a teenager.

Have a safe trip and I will await your return. :)

C.M.Brown said...

I just love to people watch too! I learned the skill from my grandmother, bless her soul, and I just love to sit and watch people. My husband gets annoyed with me, tells me its rude to stare, but I just can't help myself! I find it so entertaining!

Pk Hrezo said...

Lol... the Badass. Yep I'm a total people watcher too. Many character ideas are born from it.. and the quirkier the better.
I've spent more hours than you'd ever wanna know about in airports... been delayed for days and nights at a time, and it's always an adventure. One of my stories takes place in an airport. :)

Phats said...

Hmm just in Denver now Detroit? Are you Peyton Manning, didn't know the Lions had interest in you!

I agree with you it's fun to people watch I like drunk people watching they are the best. Stay safe in Detroit!

Sent you an email hope you're interested in doing the bracket challenge, but you sound busy so if you can't it's OK! :)

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

ooh you've inspired me to do my own people watching post. Maybe I'll do one of my coworkers. Although if they read it, they might be offended. I might have to give that some thought.

I wish I could have seen the soldiers and the ripped guy. I like looking at hot men. They sounded hot.

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