Behind the mask

The next time you’re in a public place — a coffeehouse, a park, a store — observe the people around you. Pick a person, a couple, or a group, and imagine what their lives might be like.

In a city the possible lives of the people around us can be very varied.  At the café where I had a lunch consisting of coffee and a baguette earlier this week, I found myself doing exactly what today’s Daily Prompt suggests.  I was eating alone and had nothing to read, so I was people-watching.  There was a respectable lady of indeterminate age also on her own.  I decided she was probably not a blogger – but how do you tell?  She left and a couple who may or may not have been related took that table.  They were planning the rest of their journey.  (The café was at a main-line station.)

A young man with his internet-enabled phone attached to his ears sat down at the table directly in front of me.  I decided he was the usual age of a student.  He spoke on his phone and while it is rather rude to eavesdrop intentionally, sometimes it is impossible not to hear.  In the manner of city-dwellers he was not speaking loudly, and all I heard, or imagined I heard, him say he was that he was twenty-one.  Full marks to me there then!

In the country possible lives may be even more varied.  Of course, country cousins may be in the city for various reasons, but in a small town café there may be farm-workers, factory workers, office staff, professionals of every type, housewives, job-seekers, retired people and young families.  Their outward appearance may give more away than in the city.

And what about me?  I was carrying no luggage.  It was a hot day and I had no jacket.  I was wearing trainers as I anticipated a lot of walking.  I’d be surprised if any of the other habitual people-watchers guessed I was on my way to an exhibition at one of the most famous tourist attractions in the country.