Saturday, June 18, 2011

People Watching

People Watching in a Texas Mall

The temperature outside was 103 degrees Fahrenheit, so it made sense to do a little people watching that afternoon.  The fellow in the chair, obviously worn out from walking around the mall, was a perfect representative of one aspect of the Fort Worth community on a spring day in early June.

Because I am not accustomed to sitting and watching people in any mall, much less one that is 1500 miles from my home, I found the experience extraordinary.  The variety of people, in terms of age, dress, ethnicity, social status (where detectable), and size, both in terms of height and width, was astonishing.  Inscriptions on T-shirts were sometimes alarming, "Don't bother me / I'm always right"; "Did I say you could speak?", and more. 

The question of whether people seemed truly engaged in what they were about -- in other words, was this a portion of the examined life? -- was not easy to answer.  Few people seemed to be focused, but instead, when they were together in groups, they seemed to be unclear as to which direction to head in, which shop to try out, what kind of product they wanted.  Indecision seemed the order of things.

Were they enjoying themselves?  Hard to say.  It was cool, and that was a distinct advantage of the mall.  Did they look harrassed?  Well, not always.  Some looked distressed.  But not many.  Most were simply trying to organize themselves.  There were many families of three or four young children, usually with a mother alone, although there were several couples with their children, most of whom seemed to be interested in the pet shop near Sears. 

Because it is Texas there were more Latino families, probably Mexican-Americans, than in a northeast mall.  A number of men sat in the chair in the photo above, after the sleeper awoke and moved on.  They simply rested.  A well dressed man with a suitcoat and tie -- a distinct rarity in this mall (perhaps unique) -- was a thoughtful man who said he worked with a group of cemeteries helping people make arrangements for their own eventual departure.  A good man with a spiritual mission, cooling off before venturing into the field. 

Watching these people on a Friday afternoon made me wonder about the future of the nation.  The dress of most people would have alarmed my parents and shocked my grandparents.  Neither would have felt at home in this environment.  In a sense neither would have recognized this America.  On the other hand, I am at ease and comfortable enough.  Somehow we manage to hold all of this together, despite our differences. 

Is it possible that the melting pot begins and ends at the Mall?  It's beginning to look that way.

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