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June 26, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Neighborhood Watch

By Jeany Miller More Blogs by This Author

Human observation can be a powerful tool. It’s not polite to stare at others, but merely observing them and their subtle nuances can provide great insight into their lives and personalities.

Lost in Thought and a Haze of Smoke

For instance, the man across the street from where I live seems to be a brooder. Each morning, as I walk my dog, I see him sitting in the shadows of his garage, a look of intent concentration on his face as he smokes first one and then two cigarettes. He doesn’t drink coffee with his tobacco, as many other people do, but merely steadily inhales the stream of smoke and seems to be lost in thought.

I don’t know if he lives alone or not. His home is quite large, too large for a single man, so I like to think he has a family of sorts. Perhaps he’s thinking about what he’ll do for the day, although this seems doubtful because the look on his face is so intent. Perhaps he thinks of his youth – he’s an older man, with salt and pepper hair and a paunch in his stomach – or maybe he’s worried about his health or that of a loved one.

Focused on Her Target

A woman who lives nearby, I’m not sure where exactly, jogs every morning and every evening in the exact same outfit: black spandex, a racer-back tank, and running shoes with white socks. She pulls her hair into a smooth ponytail and plugs her earphones into an iPod that’s belted around her waist. Strapped to her arm is a device that probably measures her heart rate, calories burned, distance traveled, etc.

All of this seems run-of-the-mill, but the woman herself is unique in that she never looks right or left. She keeps her gaze focused straight ahead of her, as if staring at a goal only she can see. This is incredible to me because, in comparison, others are easily distracted by dogs barking, birds flying, and children playing. But not her… she sees nothing except the target for which she is striving. Maybe she doesn’t want to invite attention to herself as she exercises, or maybe she’s simply trying to stay focused. In any event, I am curious to learn more.

Live Long and Laugh Loud

Another woman near my house surrounds herself with a large group of people, presumably her friends. They often stand outside her townhouse, some of them smoking, accompanied by high chatter and laughter. From what I can see, this woman is the center of attention; she’ll face the group as the others keep their focus on her. She dresses in a trendy manner – denim jackets, black tights, heels, and colorful tops – and has the loudest laugh of those in her circle. From my vantage point, she seems to be full of life, a vigorous person whose personality naturally attracts others.


The maintenance manager has, from what I can tell, the exact opposite personality. He is quiet and subdued, either walking the complex or driving in his truck with an appliance strapped to the bed. I occasionally see him at the end of the day, with the skin around his eyes stretched taut and his shoulders slumped in fatigue. It’s obvious he’s a hard worker, just as it’s obvious he’s in a rush to get away from the complex once his work is finished. At five o’clock sharp, he jumps in his truck, rolls the window down, and peels out of the drive with a determined look on his face. I’ve seen a gold band on his wedding finger, so he must be married. I like to think he’s in a rush to leave work so he can get home and see his family.

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1 Comment

  • I notice patterns in human behavior, also I think about people who I see on a daily basis and wonder how their lives are too. Sometimes you can predict how people are going to act, over the course of time. It's a pretty cool tool to make observing others more entertaining.

    I used to be silent and observe people in school. It's carried over in life and become something I do when I am not blocking out sounds with music.

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