Monday, February 04, 2008
When in cafes - yes, yes, sometimes Starbucks - I tend to sit on the high stools and place my coffee on the shelf so that I have an unobstructed view out on the street. This allows me to stare at people as if they are on a screen. It has recently struck me that my staring has changed. I have entered a new phase. The phases of people watching are pretty obvious. When young it is status-laden, sexual and tribal, loaded with heavy, insecure critiques of the passers-by. Then there is the anthropological phase. This lasts a long time and consists of slightly superior analysis of manner and appearance as if one were gathering material for a novel - though, in fact, it's obviously just status-seeking to distract one from the fact that one is no longer young. I have just - half an hour ago, in fact, in Cafe Nero in Notting Hill - emerged from this anthropological phase. I now regard people zoologically. All judgment and status anxiety are gone. I no longer feel a member of the same species as the passers-by. I watch their appearance and behaviour disinterestedly as if they were the animal protagonists in some TV wildlife show. They interest me but they do not bother me. For those of you who haven't got there yet, I can report that the zoological phase brings with it a wonderful feeling of serenity.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 5:37 pm