Here’s looking at you

Some time around the beginning of the month, some of my coworkers got together after work because another coworker was leaving for Japan. We talked about stuff but there wasn’t really a main topic. It was just a regular conversation between friends. One of my coworker mentioned that her father likes Hamilton. I’ve lived in Hamilton for over 20 years and I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone liking Hamilton. The reason why her father likes Hamilton is because of the diversity of people. Yes, Canada may be filled with diversity but there aren’t too many places like Hamilton.

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, you’ll notice that there are a lot of people from different ethnic backgrounds. It’s a big municipality with a lot of people in it. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but it seems has if Toronto is segregated. As you enter Toronto from Spadina, you’ll know when you’ve reached Chinatown. If you keep going and exit the Don Valley Parkway and head into Scarborough, you’re in an Indian area. The last time I went to a Tim Horton’s in that area, everyone just stared at me. They were probably thinking, “What part of India is he from?”

But if you’re in Hamilton, that’s not the case. Downtown Hamilton has a mix of people. You can sit on a bench and you’ll come across a lot of people from different backgrounds whereas in Toronto, if you’re in Chinatown, you see a lot of Chinese people. And then you’ll see a white guy the odd time.

I find that people in general are a fascinating species. There is more to them than meets the eye. Believe it or not, people watching is an actual past time that many participate in. It is a past time where one sits in a cafe and observes the people around them. The objective is to try and guess who these people are, where they come from, where they are going and what they are doing. It may sound simple but there are some skills involved. Studying the character of a total stranger is hard when you don’t know a single thing about them. But that’s where it’s fun.

When I am somewhere alone with a lot of people around, I like to try and watch people. And no, I am not stalking them, I’m just observing. I start by observing one person. I make an attempt at guessing their age, occupation, background, hobbies and maybe the mood they are in at the time. With practice, you will start to see that there are some correlation and patterns between a person and the group of friends they are with. Physically, they may not look like friends but there might be an idea or concept that sparked the friendship.

For instance, you can obviously tell that someone has bad eye sight because they are wearing glasses. You can probably tell that someone is in a hurry to get somewhere because they walking away really fast and looking at their watch. But you can never be too sure about what is going on with that person at the time. Just because they’re wearing glasses doesn’t mean their eye sight is bad. Some people these days wear glasses as fashion. They may look like prescription glasses but the lens doesn’t do a thing to their eyes. Someone who is walking fast and looking at their watch might not even be a hurry to get somewhere. Maybe they walk fast because that’s how they walk. And they were looking at their watch because they were curious of the time.

I tried to test out my skills at people watching to see how well I can do. I was sitting at Tim Horton’s one night doing some homework. An old man comes in, puts his stuff on the table at the other side of the restaurant and then proceeds to the counter to make his order. He goes to this Tim Horton’s a lot and sometime he can get a little loud. He appears to be in his mid 50’s. His head is already covered with white strands. He walks with a bit of a limp but I don’t think the limp is painful. Judging by the limp, I assume he’s retired from whatever job that he did in the past. He’s very opinionated and isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind. If he has a point to make, he will try to convince you that he’s right. He enjoys staying up-to-date with current affairs.

This man goes to Tim Horton’s every night and he has become very well acquainted with the night staff. I believe his name is Fred. I overheard one of his friends call him that. Every night, he would arrive at Tim Horton’s around 1:00am. I don’t know what kind of coffee he orders because I can’t hear him when he makes his order. He always comes into the restaurant with a duffle bag. He stays in the restaurant until 3:00am or 4:00am which is the time that the newspaper guy comes. As soon as the newspaper guy takes off, he goes outside and grabs the Hamilton Spectator from the box. He usually leaves once he’s done. If he’s with friends, he will still until close to 5:00am.

Over the course of a year or so, I’ve slowly gotten to know “Fred” and some of his friends. Every time we see each Tim Horton’s, we would nod as we greet. Once in a while, we’ll talk but it usually doesn’t last long. It’s just mostly small talk about something that just happened. Judging from his behaviour “Fred” seems like a nice guy. He’s old and like most old people they are just looking for some company. I think that’s the reason why he spends his nights at Tim Horton’s.

If you get the chance, try and see if you can guess the characteristics of other people. It’s not that hard of a thing to do. Sometimes the answers are right in front of you but you have to open you eyes wide enough to see it. If you pay attention to the things that people say, you will start to understand them a little. You can later use this skill to get people to open up to you. Most people will not tell you what’s wrong and trying to force it out of them doesn’t work. But if you understand them, you can ask them the right questions so that eventually, the problem comes out and they won’t even realize that they’ve told you.