With all due respect to Webster and Wikipedia, seeing is automatic for those of us blessed enough with the sense of sight. Looking is a way to alert, warn or direct us to where we want to get to. Watching is can be passive and active. Observing is breaking it down––the way people walk, talk, react, position themselves and is a sense of discovery. It's paying attention to the details.
I do even more observing since I've had cancer. It's almost as if I can read more––and I'm not talking about reading text. I notice if people are happy. Sad. Confused. Angry. I notice how people drive. (I believe the worst drivers in the country are in the DC Metro area. Yes, you Virginia and Maryland are included. Don't believe me? Observe how many people know how to merge, know what to do at a 4-way stop sign, know that pedestrians have the right of way. And don't get me started with cell phones and driving. In fact, I saw something last week that floored me––a woman putting on her make-up, talking on the phone, eating something in a wrapper and drinking from a Starbucks cup. Mind you she wasn't doing all of this at the same time. Just 3 at a time.)
Today I took 5 minutes to sit on a street corner in DC. My observations?
A co-worker in his own zone, ignoring me as I called his name.
Two women talking on their own mobile phones AND talking to each other.
A woman in a car almost run over another woman in the crosswalk––and yell at the pedestrian to "get outta my way, BITCH!"
A man taking a picture of his lunch group while walking backwards up a hill.
A homeless man watching me watching.
A man selling jewelry.
Two guys trying to pick-up a woman on the street corner. And I don't mean by lifting her up.
An old man bent over at the waist, looking at the sidewalk below.
More combovers than I've seen in a long time.
Two old friends looking for a place to eat. (I talked to them.)
A bike messenger darting in and out of traffic.
People talking politics––this is DC.
Someone actually buying the homeless newspaper.
People dodging Greenpeace people.
Toenails with crazy designs.
That's what happens when you don't know if today will be your last day on Earth. You take life one hour at a time. One slice of life at a time. One day at time. There's no guarantee that you'll get to the weekend. Or across the street.
That's why I keep my eyes wide open.