The Metropolis

Annoying habits of Londoners #2: Being upset when strangers gawp at you

Mike Pollitt | Monday 13 February, 2012 13:36

City living can be tough. Time and space are seldom your own. That’s why I have always depended on the oddness of strangers. Whether I’m trapped on public transport, bored in a pub, posing round an exhibition or peeking furtively from behind my bedroom curtains, other citizens behaving unusually is one thing I can always rely on to spice up my day.

I’m not talking here about the unfortunate, the drunk, students or the unwell. These people warrant sympathy, not gawps. What fascinates me are ordinary people in moments of minor social crisis.

A list of such crises would include, but not be limited to:

People having arguments
People in romantic clinches
People who are lost pretending that they aren’t
People trying to get served at a bar without looking too much like they’re trying to get served
People who look underdressed
People who feel overdressed
People turning round in the street for no apparent reason and heading off in the opposite direction as if it were the most natural thing in the world
People dropping things
People with lots of luggage who are trying to navigate London without bashing into anyone even though they suspect, correctly, that it’s not possible
People falling over
People who are just as nosy as me who get caught being nosy and try to pretend that they weren’t being nosy at all

We’re all nosy. If there’s a Londoner out there who persistently minds their own business I haven’t met them and I don’t want to. People are interesting. That’s ok.

What’s not ok is to do something interesting, however inadvertently, and then shoot evils at someone for watching you do it. It happens to me all the time, and I’m sick of it.

If you live in a city you have signed a metaphorical pact: to live a partly public life. If you’re in the street, you’re on the stage. Let me watch you; and you, you watch others in return. There’s no need to look so cross. You’re the star of the show!

See also:
Annoying Habits of Londoners #1: Applauding at the cinema
Five most annoying habits on London’s public transport
Diary of the shy Londoner

Follow Mike
Twitter: @MikPollitt

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