Part 10: Strangers In the Distance

If you ask me what super power I want, I would tell you in a heartbeat that I want the ability to read minds. I think a lot of us want that because we have all been in situations where we would feel so much better knowing what another person is thinking. So few of us are able to speak our minds and truly express ourselves that I often wonder how differently things would turn out if we were all able to understand each other better.

My fascination with people started in 2005. It was the year I returned to school after taking eight months off to work a crazy amount at two jobs. Many of my days were spent studying at Starbucks before and after classes, although to be honest very little of that time was actually spent studying for my courses. I was much more interested in using that time to study something else – people. I wanted to understand people because I didn’t understand why the people I loved hurt me. I wanted to know what went through their minds when they said the things they did or when they didn’t say anything at all, as well as why people would do certain things or act a certain way. There were answers needed to be found, and since I couldn’t go to the people who affected my life to seek out those answers, the only way to find them was for me to understand how people worked. Only then would I be able to find closure.

Sometimes I would be lucky enough to get a table by the window at Starbucks, and I would spend hours sitting there looking down at the parking lot as cars maneuvered their way in and out of parking spaces. I would watch as people made their way to their cars; some struggled to get their doors opened while they juggled the bags and boxes that filled their arms, some were very watchful of their children and strollers, and some would carelessly talk on their cell phones while completely disregarding the cars that almost hit them. It became an interesting game of observing people’s behaviours and predicting what kind of drivers they were. I took into account everything they did. There were the detail-minded who often reversed perfectly into their parking spots. They were the ones who most often cleared off all the snow from their cars before driving off. The extremely anal ones would do a walk around their cars to make sure there were no scratches. I could sit here and type up an entire report on my findings.

When I couldn’t get a table by the window, I would try to find one of my preferred seats at Starbucks. They weren’t always available, but if I got lucky I would be able to share one of them with a fellow Starbucks patron I had become friends with. We usually just shared the table and focused on our own studies, but when we needed a break we would chat for a while. He was about 7 years older than me, studying to become a lawyer. I never really knew him very well, although we were able to talk about a lot of things and he gave me a lot of insight into how the male mind works. Sometimes we talked about the other strangers we saw at Starbucks. He shared a similar fascination as I did for people, except I think his reasons were much different from mine.

Through my own observations and from talking to people, I learned a lot during those days at Starbucks. It might sound a bit abstract to hear me say it’s possible to learn about people by watching them from afar, but in some peculiar way it was able to help me find understanding. Perhaps what I really enjoyed was the feeling of leaving behind my life to focus on someone else’s, even if it was just for brief moments. Everyone was at Starbucks for something different. Some had coffees, some had teas, and some had lattes. Some of those people were there to work, some there to read, some there to meet up with friends. Then there were those whom I saw frequently but never quite figured out why they were there. I was most curious about those people, because I wondered if they were there for the same reason as me.

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