Things I notice

I’m beyond tired of writing about gloom and doom, depressing thoughts, so I turned to Plinky for a little help. Plinky asked, “What are the first things you notice about people you just met?”

I’m so glad you asked, Plinky. It’s Bonnaroo week in my hometown. At least 80,000 strangers have invaded. No doubt about it. I’m going to meet someone new this week. Yeah! New people = new stories.

The first thing I notice is what people are wearing. I prefer clothes. But being Bonnaroo week and all, that’s not always the case. Point is, it’s just plain awkward for a clothed person to interact with a non-clothed person in a wardrobe-expected environment, and it’s near impossible for the clothed person not to stare. Staring is just not cool if you’re trying to be polite.

Other than nakedness, nothing really fazes me. I’m a teacher. I’ve seen just about everything—every color of hair and lack of hair and every clothing style from skirts on males sitting in my English class to chainmail on females perusing the school library. I’ve seen some of the most unusual piercings and tattoos and feathers. What really matters to me is what’s on the inside of the person.

I’m always intrigued by people who aren’t afraid to be themselves, so if a person is wearing something really unique I’m going to notice. I like unique—especially if it’s colorful and mosaic. When I see it, I drift away into my dream world and wonder WHY—why THAT outfit, why THAT color. Why, why, why. The more I learn about writing books, the more I learn about character motivation.

Of course, character motivation is something I deal with every day. Every 45 minutes or so, 25 or more characters file into my classroom. I have to be on top of my game and anticipate what they’re up to next so that I
can prevent them from carrying out random acts of stupidity—like launching a pencil across the room (past dozens of eyes) or cheating on a big test and risking immediate failure.

So, Plinky, I notice the outer human being. I just want to be careful not to judge. I am a conservative person—most of the time. But just as some people can go to the far extreme of being free (and clothingless), sometimes people can be so restrictive that they try to rope others and drag them into their tiny boxes. When the roped try to get out, the noose around their necks will tighten, and they’ll get lynched. Mercy and grace. Mercy and grace. When I see something I don’t understand—or like, I pray for mercy for my condemning attitude so that I can offer grace. (But depending on what my snarky meter says that day, I may not make it without letting a comment or two slip. I’m working on it.)

More importantly, what I notice above all is a person’s eyes—the windows to the soul. I warm up pretty quickly to kind eyes. I stay away from arrogant eyes. Mischievous eyes are like the Pied Piper. I can’t help but fall under their spell. Do the eyes show compassion? Then I’ll probably edge a little closer. Do they show ill intent? I’ll mosey on over to somewhere else, not that I want to be rude. It’s hard for people to lie with their eyes, but some
people are better at it than others. I don’t think I’d be a good poker player. My eyes give me away every time.

Of course, a person’s smile is just as important as the eyes. I definitely take notice. Is the smile plastered on? Perfunctory? Fake? I don’t like fake. Flash me a fake smile, and it’s sayonara for me.

All of these things, clothing, the eyes, the smile, are visual elements that either draw or repel two people. There are four other senses, five if you count intuition, a woman’s best friend.

What do people sound like when they talk or sing? What type of music do they listen to? Are they physically distant? Afraid to shake your hand or give you a hug? Too touchy-feeling? Do they invade your space?

Speaking of touch, what do their hands look like? Sounds like an odd question, but for a writer, it’s an important one. I once worked at a soup line at the Rescue Mission in Nashville. One thing I noticed as I was serving the food was that some of the men had hands that could almost be described as smooth—but with callouses. They were musicians, just a little down on their luck once arriving to town. If I had time to talk, I’m sure I would have discovered some real stories there, heartbreaking, I’m afraid.

As for taste or smell, that’s a little too personal, even concerning my new Bonnaroo friends.

But, concerning my new Bonnaroo friends, I think I’ll head on down to the big W on the edge of town and do a little people watching. There’s bound to be a great story or two out there.

20 thoughts on “Things I notice

    • Thanks, Roger. I tried to leave you this really goofy reply, but WordPress didn’t post it. Maybe it’s a subtle way to remind me to be normal every once in a while.

  1. The first thing I notice about a person is their soul. My saying that may sound boastful or tragic or just plain loony, but when I look at someone for the first time–truly look at them–I see more than I’d care to see. And so I don’t do it often. When I’m in a crowded room, I don’t meet people’s eyes if I don’t know them. As a result, I see as little of strangers as possible. I’d be a terrible witness in a crime situation. “How many other people were in the room?” “Somewhere between five and twenty?” “Are you trying to be funny?” “Not at the moment….”

    You posted this blog asking for comments….

  2. I always welcome your input. I know what you’re saying. I’m just the opposite, I guess. I stare too much. The cops might ask me how many people I saw in a room of 100. I might have just seen one. I’m a horrible hall monitor. I can’t see the forest for one or two trees. But to be serious here, I believe in intuition. I refer to it as discernment. I am usually right. The problem is I always try to second guess myself. Then I’m in danger of getting into a heap of trouble when I meet new people.

    Thanks for reading btw. Made my day.

    • I’m all out of the free puppies I using to bribe people to leave a comment, but I will offer a SINCERE thanks for reading. You encourage me!

  3. I do enjoy your writings. It seems to be mind expanding in my very mundane life. I would like to express a sincere thank you myself for being such a wonderful teacher in my wild days as a teenager. I have a freshman following my steps into CHS this yr and hope you can get to him like you did to me. Thanks a bunch!

  4. According to me it’s very difficult to judge a new face the very first time you meet them and look into their soul.
    A cheater will never be harsh to you, he will always be polite to you and will speak pleasing words.
    Their physical appearance, talking style,clothes are things which might not show who they really are, these things depends on the type of environment they are in and changes accordingly.
    It’s only after you had meet few times, you are able to understand something’s about the person , that totally depends how much the person in front of you is trying to show.

    Thanks Tee for writing this beautiful article, love your writing 🙂

  5. Wonderful read. I loved it. I used to look at peoples noses and wonder what nationality they were. I love people watching, but seldom have time to indulge. People watching in Santa Cruz is extremely colorful and you can’t help but smile. Great post!

  6. I’ll bet it’s so much fun to watch in Santa Cruz. I just love people. I know it sounds corny, but w’re all part of God’s mosaic. I worked a ministry tent at Bonnaroo for several years, and I always tried to guess where people were from according to their accents. I always get excited whenever I meet someone from Boston. I love the Red Sox, you know. I immediately feel a kindred spirit with someone I just met. It’s fun.

  7. Aw shucks. I wanted a puppy! lol jk. Seriously, I don’t know exactly what I notice first. I think it’s how they interact with other people. I have learned over the years that if I ignore the feeling (intuition?) I get about some people that I tend to regret it. I like to watch people, but am always afraid that I will be caught staring so I miss a lot of things. As always, enjoyed reading.

  8. Thanks Kristy. I don’t want to offend people. It’s not like the world is my own reality TV. Like you, I just caught up in the moment. Thanks for reading. Sorry about the puppy. 🙂

  9. Saw your post earlier, but had no time. Looked forward to it ALL DAY, and it was certainly worth the wait. 🙂 Not only insightful, but also thought provoking. What do I notice first?… I would say the eyes. Then I pay close attention to the voice. Does the person speak with confidence, superiority, intelligence, experience, stupidity, etc. Words are quite powerful, and thus an indication of how a person has lived their life — or at least for me that is the case.

    I also notice what a person carries with them – ie. purse, sunglasses, water, phone, laptop, etc. That tells me what is important to a person, a further insight into their character.

    As for the free-spirited Bonnaroovians,… I like ’em. 🙂 Well, I’ve not met very many, but the ones I have seem to be adventuresome, energetic, and just a wee bit insane — much like most of us were at that age.

    Excuse my long winded reply! Great article. Look forward to more. 🙂

  10. Accessories. Nice touch. I will have to be more attentive to details. I’m not sure if I’ll make it tomorrow because I feel rough, but I’m going to try. Remind me to show you something. I love your replies. You are such a great writer. Keep ’em coming. And thanks so much for reading. It means a lot.

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