Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Invisibles

It's funny how your perspective changes when you're people watching.  You might feel at liberty to be slightly more judgmental than usual since the only conversation going on is internal -with yourself - or on the flip side, you might gain a deeper understanding of why people behave or react in a certain way.

For three whole months, I took the wrong bus to work from my flat in East London.  Yes, that's right, I managed to get on a bus, every day, for three months straight that took approximately 50 minutes to get me to my job in the West End, when there was a bus that could have taken me there in 20 (the difference was that the first dropped me off directly in front of the office and the second would require a 2 minute walk - in my first-time-in-London-naivete, I thought the first one was obviously the correct bus to take since it dropped me in front of the office door).  And I didn't realize this until I had to get on a new bus to my new job a few months later.  Boy, did I feel stupid.

I really relished my long bus rides, however.  And despite bringing a book on board with me, I always ended up putting my iPod in and staring out the window, entertaining the little thoughts that drifted in and out of my mind.  And most of all, I loved to people watch, especially on the top deck of the 15.  Here, I could see almost everyone and everything from virtually a birds' eye view.  It was in this way that I memorized peoples' rituals and made up stories about what they did for a living and what kind of clothes they wore when they weren't in suits.  I began to recognize the man who bought his porridge from Apostrophe every morning near St Paul's Cathedral or the woman who carried her heels in a separate bag to her purse while she sped walked in her Asics near Tower Gateway. 

I also saw the people I termed, "the Invisibles".  These were the workers who handed out free papers (when they still existed), such as the Metro, the London Lite, or the London Paper, among other free publications for morning commuters.  I called them the Invisibles, because as they handed out papers with outstretched hands, some calling out the name of their assigned publication, they were usually brushed past, ignored, or sometimes pushed.  I watched all of these going-ons through my plastic window atop the 15 and knew that I was also guilty of this.  I vowed to say at least, "No thanks," if I passed and didn't want one - and I did, for a while, but inevitably reverted to my old ways and walked straight past again.

I was fascinated by the Invisibles.  They stood in the rain and heat every day, handing out these papers.  I wondered if it wore on their psyches after a while, to be continuously ignored, save the random every other person who grabbed a paper without a word.  I used to get annoyed by those who shoved a paper in my face and when I politely refused, continued to stab it at my chest.  That's when I'd go through a period of ignoring them again.

Now, when I walk past an Invisible, even with my iPod in, I make sure to acknowledge them and say "No, thanks," even if I'm annoyed or don't want their paper.  Because no matter what - at least, if it were me -feeling invisible is never a good thing.

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1 comment

  1. This makes my heart a bit heavy. I'd like to hear it from the perspective of somebody who has actually had that job. You should hunt one of these invisibles down! Sounds like a daunting task...


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