Tuesday, April 24, 2012

People watching in Brunswick Square

While sitting in the Brunswick Square food court, drinking a large coffee (two sweetener, one cream) from Tim Horton's - the only spot open at the moment - the sights and sounds are distracting me from reading my newly purchased book from the University book sale.

The muffled crash of the water fountain in the center of the court is currently flowing bright yellow water in support of the Canadian Cancer Society.  Tiny yellow droplets spit in every direction.  While cheery in appearance, the sound is definitely leaving my tiny bladder slightly confused.

The noise of the fountain is overpowered by the incessant humming of the lights - most of which aren't turned on.  This is leading me to feel as though I were in a slightly reclusive coffee shop, not a typically busy food court.  If it were any darker, I'd be transported back in time to a 1940s bar atmosphere where the room was filled with wafting cigarette smoke and I'd be holding a cocktail, not a Tim's cup.

The elevator music is also competing for my attention - an upbeat guitar with a touch of resonance (that is what it's called, I believe) is only an afterthought though.  The lights are rather like a swarm of hornets - they make their presence known.

A security guard catches my attention - young, rather hard looking face.  This probably isn't his ideal job.  He looks bored but at the same time, in the back of his mind, he must be thankful.  Boredom in his profession must equate to safety.  If not for his shoes, he would blend into his surroundings perfectly.  Black jacket with SECURITY on the back, bright yellow liner barely visible in the front, black, decent fitting trousers, but bright blue sneakers...Rebock brand, I think.

As the time passes, closer and closer to the lecture at the New Brunswick museum, the number of people sitting in the food court rises.  With this increase, the lights slowly come on.  The Museum lights glow a soft yellow but I am unsure when they were turned on.  Their warm presence, for some reason, makes me think of walking home in the snow after dark and seeing houses - cozy inside - with the same glow.

One woman in particular catches my attention. With perfectly coiffed hair, bright eyes, and absolutely amazing legs, her heels catch my attention as she passed my table three times.  She is impeccably dressed in a trench coat and lovely skirt.  Her attention to detail is remarkable.  Her shoes, black, ankle height, high heeled boots, completely destroy my persona of the older generation.  She is of my grandmother's generation - and I am jealous of her stockinged legs.  Her face is not hard - but stern.  If I were to guess her profession years ago, I would imagine she was a teacher or a principal.  The way she holds her jaw says "No funny business" and "behave yourself."

The majority of people walking by are elderly but spry.  Joining together, obviously familiar with each other, I am the outsider looking in.  I am watching, listening, learning and yet, do not understand yet.  Someday, I will look back at this and perhaps, I will understand.  I hear them speak about  a person who had a heart attack - it is a sharp reminder that yes, I am different.  We aren't speaking about the same news, are we.

In contrast, three high-school aged youth walk past.  Inexperienced eyes meet experienced for a moment of acceptable judgment.  Older people are too boring. This young girl has rainbow coloured hair.  Old people are unable to do anything. Young people are lazy.  It's never said out loud - it may not have even been thought - but it happens often in one way or another.

A mother and child's gleeful cries stop me from furthering down this interesting path of judgment and age.  The child - a little blonde haired girl with shoulder length hair is in a bright green sweater and Ugg-like brown boots.  She runs aimlessly, carefree - but is doing exactly what I am doing - watching people.  Her mother, a pixie-like woman, tiny with blonde hair, runs to catch her.  She takes her daughter down the escalator, letting her leap off and swing in her mothers arms at the bottom.  How big must an escalator be to her little eyes?

My professor interrupts my people-watching to ask about the books I bought at a sale earlier.  Apparently, he is trying to get rid of books but tells me of other sales.  I can't help but notice his glasses - I'm not sure if they are new or just different - dark rimmed.  He has, in my mind, always been the stereotypical appearance of a professor - tan jackets, elbow patches, greying hair, old enough to be respected but young enough to be lively.  He's got an old-school charisma about him.

A young boy - perhaps seven or eight - catches my attention.  He's staring at the bright yellow fountain in baggy black sweatpants and a black cap, just pondering why the water is so bright.  At the same time, the little blonde girl is capturing hearts.  Her father swoops her up as she begins to cough but once she stops, she screams every child's favorite word only once - NO - as he heads for the exit with her.  She's not finished yet.

An elderly man with a walker passes my table.  His back is slightly hunched showing off his bald head.  His face droops slightly giving the appearance of being tired or slightly grumpy.  At one time though, no doubt, he was a handsome strapping man.  He's still tall, rather broad shouldered but thin.  The stories he must have...

Two more children walk past with their parents in tow.  The children are dismissible from my attention - rather average and boring.  The parents, however, are identically dressed in powder blue, long sleeved, button up shirts, and dark blue, almost black, khaki pants.  The woman slightly feminizes her rather masculine appearance and short haircut with three rows of ruffles on either side of the buttons of her shirt.

An elderly gentleman notices a woman coming to join them for coffee.  His group - perhaps four or five - is crowded around a couple of tables.  Being of a different (and perhaps, better) generation, he immediately gets up and gets the woman a chair.  My prejudice got the best of me as I was surprised by his dexterity.  He moved quicker than I could, I'm sure.  While a different generation, I can imagine them younger - enjoying time on the Boardwalk perhaps, probably with different groups or even different boardwalks - but maybe not.

Finally, the elevator music seems to play a conclusion as I check my cellphone for the time.  Yes, this session of people-watching has ended and I, along with the older generation of men and women, head into the museum for the lecture.


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