Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Populus: Kalendis Iuliis

It's the Kalends of July.

I can't decide if June went by terribly slow, or flew by rapidly. It feels like just yesterday it was May, but then again, this month has also been a grueling long series of natural disasters. Bah Oh well, Iowa has thrown us yet another completely unpredictable curve ball and has given us relatively nice weather this week. Honestly, I'm in a bit of shock. By this time of year, the heat and humidity in Iowa is nauseating, at best. However, there has been coolness in the air, and nice breezes to offset the hotter times. Maybe Gaea's making up for that whole flood and tornado business.

Anyway . . . I've been observing people a lot again lately. People-watching has always been a hobby of mine. I've always had a keen interest in observing human interactions. Anyway, the hobby has been a bit put off since I graduated college and am around significantly fewer people than the thousands I saw every day on campus. Also, since then, I've felt like I've been in a big rush to nowhere, and even trips to the store seem rushed for no reason. I stopped paying attention to the people, finding myself simply irritated at most of them.

So over the last couple of days there were a couple of people I happened to randomly "bump" into that just seemed interesting. It feels like something about them snapped me out of that tense state of indifference I have developed over the last year and got me to paying attention again. People are indeed interesting.

Today Katrina and I went on a little walk. Well, we do that a lot lately actually. But today we were skulking about near the river trying to catch a bunny. A Jamaican guy approached us and started talking. He was dirty, and at first appeared to be homeless. He was interesting, and seemed really nice. He initially asked me where he could go to buy t-shirts (in the downtown area of Waterloo, there are very few places to clothes shop, and he had no car). We spoke for a while, and it turned out that he was an illegal immigrant. He had lived somewhere else (I don't know where) and had to flee due to a raid, and didn't have time to gather his belongings (hence the need to buy new clothes). He was hired by a company to come up to Waterloo to do temporary manual labor fixing flood damage. He had tried to go clothes shopping at a nearby place where the guy working there was being a smart-ass and stereotyped him, trying to push a Bob Marley shirt.

Then the day before, we were shopping at Target. Behind us in line at the checkout was a family. There were several girls. One of which was maybe 14 years old. She looked like the typical annoying teenage girl. With her was her younger sister; maybe 9 or 10 years old. This girl, by contrast, appeared far more intelligent. She stood straight, and wore glasses. She bore a serious expression, perhaps even one of contempt for her surroundings. The annoying older sister spoke, in that annoying teenage girl fashion.

"Oh my God, that's the same kind of suntan lotion that Clair uses!!! Yadda yadda blah blah yadda!!!"

To which the young girl replied in a monotone adult voice, "Hmmm. That's interesting. Did you really need to tell me that?"
Katrina and I just looked at each other, with a grin. We were in a little bit of amazement. Could it be that we had actually encountered a child that didn't irritate or creep us out? One that was perhaps as cynical as us? Nay, one that might even surpass us in contempt for stupidity?? I think if it were possible, we would have adopted the child then and there and raised her to be one of our unholy minions of the night.

Anyway, I digress. These two interesting people that we encountered within two days got me thinking of something I realized a long time ago; it's a strange thing, looking at a person for a first time. It's very common for people to sum somebody up in a matter of seconds, and judge them only based on their behavior in that exact moment, as if their existance was a mere snapshot in time. I don't think people ever take the time to wonder who made someone what they are.

The Jamaican guy, and the little girl . . . They were very different from most people you usually meet. It is interesting to wonder what their story is, people. What made them who they are? The Jamaican guy on the surface looked homeless, and lower class. He was an illegal immigrant on the run. But he was articulate, and seemed sensitive. Maybe not the most educated, per se. But his face bore a certain wisdom. He was obviously facing a difficult life right now, but still seemed friendly and nice. What shaped him? Where will he go next? And the little girl . . . her sister was the typical bubble-head, seeming devoid of any sophistication whatsoever. The mother just looked totally apathetic to what was going on. What shaped this little girl? What made her so serious and contemptuous of stupidity? Where did she learn that cheeky sarcasm? Not only where did she learn it, but where did she learn to deliver it with such timing and mastery?

People are very interesting, and very complex. And they become even more so when you look at them as a sum of experiences and influences. When you start to look at people that way, you find you understand them more. They appear more "three dimensional" and less like paintings and snapshots in time. They churn and bubble, and are organic.

I wonder what people might have thought of Katrina and I today. As I said, we were sneaking around trying to catch a bunny. We've done that the last two days, actually. What do people think when they drive by? Why is that devilishly handsome guy and his terribly cute girlfriend running around in circles around that bush? Wait, is that a bunny they are chasing? They are adults! WTF?! Would they take an insta-snapshot and just assume we were idiots? Or would they venture to guess that there might be something more complex behind it?

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