Making an impression

As I write this, I am engaging in one of my favourite pastimes. It’s a little activity I like to call “people watching”. It’s fairly self-explanatory, and whilst some may think its slightly creepy, I find it fascinating.

As I sit here outside a cafe at uni, I am surrounded by characters of every type you could imagine, despite the fact that it’s quite late in the typical uni day. There are solitary people and people in groups. Smiling people, concentrating people, people on the lookout for companions that are yet to arrive, people deeply engaged in conversation. People rugged up for the winter weather and people who must be freezing or crazy. Those dressed for fashion and those dressed for comfort. Tall people, short people, thin people, round people. Blondes, brunettes, redheads and everything in between. One with blue hair.

And as I look around at all these people sitting by and drinking their coffees or chatting with friends or desperately trying to catch up on readings for the class they have next, I move on to the next phase of people watching – formulating their stories.

How much can I tell from what they are wearing, how they are acting and who they are with about who they are? Have they just met the people with them or are they lifelong friends?

The girl in front of me has been sitting alone for around ten minutes, alternating between looking towards a major walkway nearby and checking her phone. Is she waiting on a friend for their weekly coffee catch up? Is she meeting a teacher to discuss an assignment that she simply can’t hand in on time? Has she been stood up?

A woman who I would estimate to be in her mid-40s ambles past quite slowly. She is clearly heading somewhere but is in no rush. She is alone but smiling to herself. Has she just received good news? Knows that wherever she is heading is bound to be lots of fun? Just hung up the phone after an unexpected and sweet call? Or is she just naturally optimistic and high on life?

I suppose there are a few reasons this activity interests me so much. Firstly, I am a student of Media and Communications, and a major part of my studies last year revolved around nonverbal communication and how we can convey so much about ourselves and our personalities without talking.

It also interests me on a personal level because I’ve come to feel recently that I don’t make a very good first impression. I don’t really know why, but I feel sometimes people tend to warm to me after a few encounters more than they do on first meeting, as you can do with some. I can’t put a finger on why I feel like this, but I’ve just been mulling over the idea of impressions recently.

But I suppose the main reason I do this is that I just like people. I like to think I’m fairly observant, and I like to notice the individual. It’s not just a crowd; a collective mass. It’s a group of people. And as strange or soppy as it may sound, I like to think about how each member of the crowd came to be there and where they’re off to next.

Oh well, it keeps my overactive imagination busy, at least.

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