Thursday, August 12, 2010

People Watching and Great Characters

I like to people watch. It's almost better than a movie. I say almost, because you never get the full plot with people watching. You just get snatches, glimpses into lives, and a few minutes of drama. I like to know the whole story, but people watching does stir the imagingation.

For example, I spent several hours sitting in the waiting room at the Social Security office this week. It leeched the life from me. Most people stuffed into a government facility tend to be on their best behavior, and that cuts down on the people watching fun, but I did overhear some interesting things. Some of them made me very grateful for the metal detectors and the security guard peeering at us. I mean, anytime you're sitting next to a guy who informs the room that he's been incarcerated thirty-seven times in the last ten years, you kind of inch your chair back a few spaces and flash him an unconvincing smile. Especially if he goes on to say, "I'm sick. I've been sick all my life, and I need help."

I don't think he was asking for a tissue.

I don't think the guard thought so either. Or anyone in the room. We all kind of nodded and looked away. Well, at least for a second. Then I watched him. He would be a great character in a book. I realize that may make me sound a little sick, too, but there you have it. You can't make up suff like Mr. Crazy. Let me give you a mental picture. He sported one purple heart sock and one pink star sock, a plaid head band, linen shorts, a button up shirt with the sleeves rolled, and his hair was reminisant of the original Willy Wonka, but in a pony tail. A funky pony tail.

I can picture that incarcerated thirty-seven times, can't you? (Not Willy Wonka, but Mr. Crazy.)

I could see a universal question hovering behind the eyes of all the forty waiting peeps. "What did he do to end up in the slammer thirty-seven times?" The room practically reverberated with it.

But my main question wasn't what he'd been locked up for, strange I know, especially considering I was within touching distance, but why he'd blurt that out to the whole room. What was his motivation?

That sent my head spinning. Because it made him such a great character. Did he want respect? Fear? To jump ahead in the line? A Tissue? Or, was he late for an appointment with a bunch of jail-bird oompa loopmas?

One thing I do know for sure is, he didn't like kids. One strayed too close, and he flayed the skin off the poor boy with some blistering explatives. Everyone inched their chairs back a bit further. Come to think of it, the security guard got up and stood by the door. Hmmm. Not comforting.

I think Mr. Crazy will have to make an appearance in one of my books. But, I'll keep the small children and helpless animals away from him just to be on the safe side.

What interesting characters have you run into lately? Drop a line and share the people watching fun.


Candice said...

People watching can be quite an idea factory. All I have to say is 37 times!! Why did they let him about again?

Carolyn V. said...

I love the people watching! That guy in the social security office sounds a bit scary, but what a great character he could be! =)

Anonymous said...

Public transportation is another great place. On trax on our way to a baseball game a few nights ago we saw a guy in his mid to late teens who had zero social inhibitions. He went from person to person on the train, asking about whatever they were looking at or doing. But even more interesting than watching him was watching how the different people reacted, some ignoring him or obviously trying to shoo him off, while two guys with window-washing poles shook his hand, asked his name, and treated him like he was cool. It's always the interactions of characters that shine light on them. :)

Jolene said...

I watched a guy get married in a white t shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. He was covered in tattoos and read the most moving vows I've EVER HEARD. I cried. I don't cry at weddings. I'm usually bored.

Karen said...

Oh man, this story made me laugh out loud. How awesome. (Of course, I'm sure it was more awesome in retrospect than in actually experiencing it. Yikes!) I love watching people too. Great way to get characters. :)

Karen said...

Oh, PS...I gave you an award. It's on my blog when you want it.

LeishaMaw said...

Candice, it is a great idea factory, and yes, 37 times. I think they let him out to torture SSA workers.

Carolyn, I can't wait to write him. I just need to decide which story he needs to be in. Hmmm.

Nikki, it's so true. The window washing guys make me happy. Woot for them!

Jolene, I love it when I'm surprised by people. Now I wish I'd seen this wedding.

Karen, thanks for the award. *Grin* And it was way more awesome after I left the room. Well, the building actually.

Mary Campbell said...

Oh my gosh this is hilarious and creepy all at the same time. I like people watching too and making up stories about their lives.

LeishaMaw said...

Mary, it was a bit creepy. Thanks for reading.


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