Saturday, February 18, 2012

people observation #25: Row Mans & Relation Ships

Notice the gum on my cup. I have
 no intention of chewing that later.
I'm currently sitting at a Starbucks window seat in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Coffee shop window seats provide prime location for people watching. One can eavesdrop to ongoings inside, but also watch some awesome people outside. I find a great deal of enjoyment in inventing stories for passersby.

Whenever I see people going on jogs, I pretend it's actually because he or she is running from the next jogger behind them, and depending how soon this next jogger comes, I determine if the first jogger makes it where he or she was going safely.

A Jeep pulls up to a man on the corner and asks for directions. I pretend the man giving directions takes them on a five mile detour passed his small sandwich shop he just opened up, because he's all about nonchalant and passive advertising, pun intended.

The longer I stare out the window, the more complex my stories get.

The person standing right outside the window from me is dressed fairly well. He's bald with decently stylish glasses, but he also has his septum pierced, a very thick metal hoop through both nostrils, with a two iron balls the size of large peas on the ends. I imagine he's a generally conservative fellow who, in a phase of self-searching, dated a free spirited hippie-chick a couple years back that made him do it, and now, he being the low-risk individual he is, is afraid to remove the metal out of fear that it's actually holding his entire nose together. He can make that excuse all he wants, but when he's really being honest with you, he'll confide that it brings back good memories of that strange, strange girl.

As Pandora picks my playlist, I pretend that anyone with headphones on is listening to the same song as me. (Unless they're wearing Beats by Dre. Then they're just sooo hardcore, and I couldn't imagine what explicit Jam they're pretending they wrote. But because the only headphones I could find are the jumbo and ear-sore inducing ones that came with my iPhone, I'm also kind of jealous of anyone's squishy Beats earpad.) Whenever a mildly embarrassing song comes on, I take out my headphones to make sure nobody can hear.

What is the most interesting to watch out the window and inside of Starbucks are the couples. Love is fun to observe, and I can also get the most creative with my stories. An elderly couple passes holding hands. I pretend they are both widows, but fell in love at a local church's BINGO night six years ago and despite the rarity of falling in love so late in life, they have become best friends.

 As a college couple passes, I lock eyes with the girl. She grabs her boyfriend's hand. I thought about hissing at her, just for dramatic effect, but I decided that their relationship is really struggling because she has jealousy problems and he has intimacy issues, and they didn't need some makeupless, messy-bunned, Starbucks writer who's had to pee for thirty minutes but doesn't want to leave her MacBook in an unknown place coming between them.

I watch co-ed groups pass and it seems that I just naturally divide them into couples. If there's an odd number of individuals in the group, I joke to myself about third and fifth wheels. Poor Bryan, he's going through a rough break up and the only thing he could find to do today is hang out with his bros and their clingy girlfriends.

But really, relationships are so weird. We naturally just put so much complexity into them. I mean, no, relationships may not be as simple as a random stranger creeping through the window having the ability to dissect then point out all strengths and weaknesses of a relationship in one passing, but they aren't as difficult as we make them out to be. Reading Cosmo may make me want to buy every single color in the Kardashian OPI line, but I refuse to believe that my boyfriend is cheating on me because he bought me flowers. And when it tells me that a guy's liking of the rounder parts of a woman is directly proportionate to his need to be hegemonic and controlling, I'm going to take it with a grain of salt.

Girls are the worst at over-analyzation. A girl angry at her boyfriend, when asked if something is wrong, may answer "I'm fine," When she is (woah, curveball) not actually fine.  And girls, when a guy says he doesn't want to talk, he doesn't have problems with speaking up or knowing what he wants or a fear of admitting the truth or just an overwhelming feeling because this girl is just the greatest girl he's every met, he probably just doesn't want to talk.

I initially sat down at this Starbucks to write my Gender and Politics paper, a review of several journal excerpts of university studies about masculinity's role in romance. One can study it as much as they want, but when it comes down to it, I think romance is a pretty simple thing. It comes in different forms for everyone, but every single person on this planet likes when they feel special because someone's expressing a care for them. Romance is necessary for first dates. It's necessary for marriages of fifty years. Of course, it evolves and a relationship's definition of what a romantic act is changes through time, as is one different for each couple.  But without it, a relationship will fall apart.

I like to think that Valentine's Day is stupid because we should be romantic and do special things for the one's we love more than one day out of the year. But that being said, time takes advantage of us, and all of a sudden it's been a month since we did something thoughtful for the person that we care about. It's nice to have a designated day to remind us about why we fell for that weirdo on the other side of the bed in the first place.

Two pieces of advice to leave with:
     1. Do thoughtful things. Going out of your way to do something nice for someone is so great.
     2. Don't be annoying about relationships. Just be honest. Don't make it so complex.

Also, when you're watching people through the Starbucks window and making up life stories for them, which I'm sure everybody does, I'm sure is completely normal, try to look at people and find positive things about them. It's very self-esteem boosting when you're being kind to others, even just in your thoughts.
Thanks to Instagram for making me feel like I can take cool pictures. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

people observation #24: buckle up

Grandpa drove a black Blazer before he gave it to my brother. From the time Sean got this black Blazer and until I graduated high school, every time we'd get in the car I'd say the same thing to him: "Whatever you do, don't kill me." It probably had something to do with my 54 memories of brushes with death in  the same car. What do I mean? Grandpa never got in any accidents, but he was one of the worst drivers I ever rode with.

My family used to joke about how my grandpa left accidents behind him as he ignorantly putted down the road. 

The more I think about it, the less funny it became, because he probably actually did in fact leave accidents in his wake.

You know the scene in Toy Story 2 where the toys are trying to cross the street to Al's Toy Barn and they travel via traffic cone? The toys cause mass confusion with all of the drivers left on the road. Mr. Potato Head's shoe gets stuck in a piece of gum as a giant cement cylinder, which has fallen off a truck in the scene, almost squishes him. The scene concludes with an establishing exit shot of mass commotion in the road, honking, Disney-style cursing, shaking fists. The cars are turned in all directions, not sure what to do or where to go.

My grandpa was the toys. My grandpa was Mr. Potato Head.

Even from a young age, I knew that he was a bad driver. I'd grab the 'We'reAllGonnaDieHandle' in panic, as if that would provide any safety as a wreck became imminent.

Once Sean and I were driving with him on the highway; I don't actually remember where we were going, but I do remember after a couple miles of his right blinker on, a failure to notice a speed bump at forty miles an hour, the six feet jump we took through the air, and the scariest merge onto 161 that I had ever experienced, he was doing something else against the law. We see a cruiser flash on his blue and reds, and grandpa pulls over, well kind of. He pulled over on an exit ramp.

Stay cool, Erin. I grew nervous as the Highway Patrol man walked over with his little pad and paper.

"How's your driving record?" He asked my grandpa.

With a mild shake of his head, "Beautiful," Grandpa replies.


People are awful at admitting what they aren't capable of behind the wheel. There's that trite joke that says 80% of people think they're above-average drivers, but really, it's actually true.

Have you ever been the passenger of a car where you had no control over the fact that your driver was completely ill equipped? If your life is not flashing before your eyes because said driver's wreckFULL driving, your eye is twitching because they didn't put on their turn indicator for the last three turns. Whenever in the latter situation, I usually mouth a "sorry" to cars that we pass. I suppose when in the former I'm too busy holding on for dear life.

If there's one thing to be learned from realizing you're in the passenger seat of a lunatic driver, it's exactly what not to do. Please use your turn signal. Please don't come to a complete stop before making a simple turn. For godsakes wear a freaking seatbelt. Remember, driving slow on the highway is probably more dangerous than driving fast.

And lastly, whatever you do, don't kill me.