Monday, August 18, 2014

Movement and people watching

Lo these many moons ago, I studied acting.  I took some classes at an academy in London for a semester in college, and one of them was called "Modern Physicality".  No, I don't know why that was the name - just go with it.

A few weeks into the semester, we did an exercise in that class where we each walked around the room and eventually paired up.  Each person had to try to imitate their partner's walk, and in the end we had to perform this by walking around in a circle, while the rest of the class watched.  One person would walk normally, and the other would imitate their walk behind them.  The class would call out suggestions for improvement, and finally the original person would be pulled aside while their mimic would continue the imitation.

I was paired with a woman who was fairly confident, and walked with a swing in her hips and her head up to face the world.  It took me a few tries to get the walk, because I had to fight my natural tendencies, but I got it down eventually.  Then it was her turn to imitate me.  At the time, I had been fighting with undiagnosed depression.  I hadn't been so far away from my family for this long a time before, and this happened to have been right after 9/11 - as in, my first day of classes in this program was September 11, 2001.  In other words, I was not in a good place.

I started walked around the circle, with my mimic behind me, and the first thing I heard was someone saying "Awww!" from among my classmates.  A second later, my teacher asked, "Is that really your walk, love?"  It wasn't until I was pulled back and watched my imitator's walk that I saw what they did.  Her head was down, eyes focused on the ground.  Her arms hardly swung at her sides, and she continually reached as though she were trying to put her hands in pockets that weren't there.  She moved slowly, so slowly, and her back was bowed as though under a great weight.  I could hardly believe it - this was what everyone else saw when they watched me walk down the street.

I'm in an airport right now, waiting for my flight home.  Remember the lessons from that class, I find myself fascinated by the body language of the people around me.  Some are walking slowly, casually, as if they really didn't care if they got to where they needed to be.  Several are walking quickly, looking around constantly - they're probably trying to find their connection.  There are a few who appear determined to get this over with - sitting upright, a look of boredom on their face as they poke at their phones.  And some are giving me the seeds of an idea - a man receiving a phone call and responding, loudly, by saying "No way!" repeatedly, for instance.  Watching people watch others is entertaining, too - as this is the closest major airport to GenCon, the convention we just left, there are some folks with different colored hair, funny t-shirts, and (in one case) carrying a stuff sheep waiting for their flights home.  Seeing how others react to these blips on the radar tells me a lot about both the observer and the observed.

Me?  I'm just trying not to get caught staring at people, and waiting to take the first leg of the journey home.