At the end of a long day, sometimes what you want in a hobby isn’t necessarily something that will keep your hands and body busy, but more something to relax to, something to lay back and stir the mind. You’re not always ready to come home and throw down on the chess board or jump head on into a knitting project. This is how the majority of Americans and others around the world end up squashed in front of the TV on weekend afternoons or in the early evenings.
But what happens when you’ve seen all the shows? When you really just want to get out of the house and do something, but you can’t quite think of what?
Over the years, I’ve found one of my favorite ‘inactive’ hobbies is the sport of people watching.
Yeah, it really is a sport.
The great thing about people watching is that you can do it most anywhere there’s people! I’ll go to a bookstore, a park, a coffee shop, anywhere there are people just milling around. Find a nice comfy place to sit, maybe get something to drink, and station yourself in a part where you can maybe overhear people talking. It really never ceases to blow my mind, the kind of stuff you can overhear or witness just in a half hour span of sitting, plus it’s nice to feel the sun on your back, maybe there’s a little breeze.
These family parks in San Francisco are usually the best, as there’s always people moving around, but you’ll be surprised how easy it is to find great people watching places. In high school one of our favorite things to do on a boring night would be drive down to the airport and walk around the terminals seeing who got off, maybe even striking up a conversation (this is better to do if you’re with a group, as alone it could be a little creepy. :) We would even go so far as to bring harmonicas and kazoos and start playing songs for people getting off their plane (yeah, we were a little weird, what can I say?), and some of those days are among my best memories of hanging out. Obviously the higher security these years makes airports a little less feasible, but try the mall! Try a busy part of downtown!
Sitting and relaxing and paying attention to your surroundings can be a hobby in and of itself. And not just a lazy TV-style act, either.
As a writer, I’ve found people watching not only to be a great form of free entertainment, but a source of inspiration and creativity-waking for my work. I’ve always believed that truth is stranger than fiction, and the characters you will run into on any given day out in the light can often far surpass what you might dream up. People are just too unusual in their own worlds. Get a free piece of the fun! Take those ideas home and work them into a story or a screenplay, maybe try to paint from memory the strangest folks you saw. Overall, I’ll take the strange local talking aloud to a dog that isn’t there, or the group of muscle heads on an outing to buy new workout clothes, or just any of the strange array of individuals our human world has to offer over a rerun of Friends or the new episode of Lost any day.
The possibilities really are endless, and you can’t beat free!