People Watching

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I just sit and watch people. I know I'm not alone. I could amuse myself all day sitting in a busy people-area, watching people.

But when I can't watch people I hear people. Here at work it's pretty interesting, not to eavesdrop, but just to hear.

Like the guy who has his computer speakers on extra loud, whose computer has announced with that inevitable series of notes that WINDOWS HAS STARTED. He also has a funny ringtone on his phone - sort of a high-pitched tringging that drives me nuts.

My closest colleague (in proximity) has a constant stream of students in and out her office. There's one guy who drops by, who has the strangest, most irritating laugh I've ever heard. And with walls this thin you can't miss it. She seems to travel in a pack with her attendant students. When she worked switchboard the other day, they went along too and cluttered up the office with bodies. There's a regular babble of chatter from behind her door.

The lady next to her is into Carpenters and Kirk Darren (don't ask, you don't want us importing him from South Africa) music. Unfortunately she enjoys it at such a volume that the rest of us are left with irritating snatches of the regular tunes in our heads well after office-hours. She's the type who receives hundreds of "pass it on" emails with dodgy attachments each day, and is responsible for more email viruses here than anyone else.

Her boss seems to have his cellphone permaglued to his ear. I have yet to see him without it. I have no idea who he talks to all the time.

The mega-boss's secretary is harrassed, overworked (never leaves before 8 in the evening, and never gets all her work done - but can't say no to a job), constantly rushing here and there in her correct work attire. The rest of us pitch up in jeans on Fridays (or other days), only giving a passing nod to dress code.

My neighbour on campus calls me constantly, asking how to do this in Word, or format that in PowerPoint. You'd swear I'm the local expert. But all I know I learnt by fiddling. She sees my parents has some of her dearest friends, and has semi-adopted us as her kid/grandkid. But occasionally she gets on everyone's nerves. She comes with a loud, old-lady-tremble voice, and often talks first, thinks later.

The mega-boss is a stroller. He can be seen walking slowly by, as if contemplating the bigger problems the world has to offer. He tries to please a lot of people, but doesn't always get it right. He's a bit on the frail side after a recent tumour operation, but a nice enough guy nonetheless.

Our students - why, there's a whole year's worth of people watching in the passing crowd! There's the many Botswana folk, with their particular culture. The weird Afrikaans guy who stood up at orientation (before the managers could get to the microphone) and berated a bunch of newly-arrived girls on the length of their skirts. He had barely been here a day himself... The quiet Chinese girl, whom you're never sure understands what you're saying or not. The robust, rosy-cheeked Irish girl, a bad case of stuttering not preventing her from living life to the full. The shady guy who reminds me a bit too much of his uncle - another under-boss whom I DID NOT get along with for years. Two years ago I decided if he wasn't leaving, I would - fortunately he went first. The over-friendly Ukrainian, skinny, four-eyed, scary - and here to find a wife as a side-order to his studies.

I'm often amazed, while people-watching, at how many varieties we come in. Tall, short, thick (brain wise and otherwise) and thin, dark and light, ugly and beautiful. I sometimes wonder what attracts couples to each other. Whether the passing humans are happy or sad. What their stories are. What they're thinking. I wonder if they're loved, if they're passionate about life, what makes them tick.

Perhaps I have altogether too much time on my hands, after all.