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08 January 2007 @ 05:15 pm
Peoplewatching  
I always worry that my writing lacks humanity because I'm not actually very good at observing people. I don't like being among strangers or crowds in the first place, and I never learned "peoplewatching". If I have reason to linger in a public place, I don't listen to passing conversations or watch mannerisms; I'd rather read instead. Every now and then, though, I make an effort to pay better attention.

Today I had an oil change/rotation appointment. It was early on a rainy Monday afternoon and I was the only customer waiting. I had brought my new cell phone to set it up and the backlog of comics/puzzles to work through. When the staff came in and out, talking about this guy's schedule or that car or the number of tools they would need to get something off the other thing, I looked up. Otherwise, I finished setting up the phone, read comics, did Sudokus and daily crosswords, and tried to ignore the dumb court shows and adverts on the television, regretting that I had forgotten my mp3 player.

After a long while another customer came in and ended up sitting across from me. An older guy, not too big, trucker cap. After about five minutes, he asked what kind of puzzle I was doing. My back-and-forth motions had confused him. I explained that it was the Sudoku, though I had now moved on to the crossword. I didn't mind the interruption, but that seemed to be all that was necessary, so I started to go back to the puzzle.

He abruptly started telling me how the clutch just died on his truck. I made sympathetic sounds and he told me how bad these new all-hydraulic clutches are. "The worst, right?" he prompted the mechanic passing through. The mechanic agreed, "Absolutely," and went on with his work.

I generally try to be polite. Fine, I thought. Talk about clutches briefly. So I tried to relate the little I remembered of ninjamonkey73's tale of the double-clutch fire engine.

Talking over me, he related every detail of his trip to visit his son, the failure of the clutch, and his attempts to keep going.

I figured he could go ahead and talk himself out. I checked the clock and realized I had already been there an hour and twenty minutes. For an oil change! Meanwhile, the guy kept going on and on and on already, about the mysterious work the mechanics were doing out in the rainy parking lot with one machanic wielding some spark-spitting tool against a car's wheel region while another held an umbrella over him, and then a ten-minute saga about a transmission that caught fire while he was driving his wife and oldest daughter and dog (and maybe also grandson) up I89, all the while pausing only to prompt sympathetic noises from me. I kept shooting longing glances at my puzzle and at the in-and-out staff, wondering where on earth my car was and why this guy couldn't just stop talking already.

Forget peoplewatching. I like the people I create from whole cloth better anyway!
 
 
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