As a writer, I am a people watcher. I love finding spots where I can sit an unobtrusively observe the world around me. I find the lives of others endlessly fascinating, even in the most mundane activities.
Each person has their own story. Some of them more than one. They all come from somewhere. They all are thinking about things I can’t know about. I live in an area where people watching can be a very rich sport.
Some of the most stand out people though are those I observe on my daily commute. I live east of San Francisco, and I take the BART train into the city 3 to 5 days a week. Most of the time the ride in is quiet. Everyone is busy catching up on Facebook and email or trying to catch a few more minutes of sleep before the day really begins.
The ride home though…that is a treasure trove of people watching. Young mothers with small children, teenagers with their backpacks and music banging out of their earphones, construction workers looking tired and worn, business people in their suits….it’s like a microcosm of the Bay Area.
When it’s really crowded, like the scene above, and my agoraphobia ratchets up, I pick out a single face and I start to tell myself a story about that person’s life. That guy in the suit looking like he just spent an hour at the gym…it was his third interview that week, but so far nothing had panned out and he was tired, exhausted really, but he knew he needed something better. He’s crammed into that corner trying to study the text book in his hands so he’ll be prepared for class that evening, after he goes home and feeds his baby and kisses his wife and promises her that things will get better.
Some of those little stories create characters so vivid for me that they end up in a book I’m writing. There are a few of them in Through Shade and Shadow. Can you spot them?