There are two very different types of people to be found on public transport. The first group – usually the overwhelming majority – are those who stare politely into space or out the window, seemingly preoccupied with their own thoughts. The question of whether this is a sad reflection on our highly disciplined and self-centred, ambitious society is a question for another blog or university essay. But there are other people to be found on trains and buses; those with wondering eyes, or people watchers.
I belong to the second group. It is remarkably easy to do, given that no one else is watching you, whether they have been taught this as an aspect of manners; to be as unobtrusive as possible, or whether it is rooted in a general apathy towards one’s surroundings. Either way, if you have not got into the habit of keeping your eyes to yourself, it becomes incredibly difficult to stop them from going on their own little adventures, especially given the previously mentioned lack of consequences.
Ironically, the only time this habit becomes a problem is when you get two sets of wandering eyes in the same arena, hence the experience that inspired this little blog. There will be a point, relatively early in the journey, where your eyes will meet for the first time, at which time you will both smile politely. However, when it keeps happening you become uncomfortable; you’ve been caught out with your eyes where they shouldn’t be. So you spend the rest of the journey in this crazy dance, trying to avoid each other’s gaze, an action which of course inevitably makes the situation even worse.
This raises the question; why are we so embarrassed to be caught watching those around us? We teach children to be inquisitive about their surroundings. Somehow, somewhere between being children and being adults it moves from being inquisitive to being slightly impolite. We are trained to march through life engrossed in a purpose, mainly keeping to ourselves. But in this we miss out on the pleasures of observing the range of different people that we have in this world… It’s really not surprising that an increasing ill of this world is a lack of passion.
So next time you’re rushing to get somewhere, slow down! Smell the roses, watch the people. Bring back the wandering eyes!