A Glimpse – The Value of People Watching


In crowded areas, inspiration can strike.  Through people watching, you’re able to go outside of your norm and get a glimpse into another life.  For writers, these opportune moments give way to combating writer’s block.  Like an artist sketching a portrait, you’re able to be an anonymous observer, attempting to understand another’s life.  To my fellow writers, the next time you find yourself writing in public I encourage you to take note of others around you, not just journaling what they are doing or saying.  Rather, create a story based on them. Even just imagining a character who participates in people watching provides the convenience to write freely.  Such was the inspiration for this piece.  Enjoy.


Once again it is Sunday morning, and my stomach recognizes the need for chocolate chip pancakes.  True to my ritual, I make my way to Holy Grind, a café that brings new meaning to “a hole in the wall.”  Making my way inside, I am greeted with the scent of fried potatoes and fresh ground coffee.  Customers cradle their coffee mugs like a mother protecting her newborn.  The laughter of old men echoes from the corner as they no doubt reminisce about their younger days.  Few families mix in the crowded café with their young ones flinging sugar packets back and forth as their parents hush them through dry lips and dark-circled eyes.  This is how my Sunday mornings always seem to begin.

Sliding into my regular booth, I set my sketchbook on top of the table.  My regular waitress, Meredith, greets me with an underwhelming tone.  Knowing she has only 30 minutes left of her graveyard shift, I take no offense to her seemingly cold heart.

“Let me guess, chocolate chip pancakes?”  She looks down at me over the top of her wired glasses.

“With extra butter,” I confirm.  The mere mention makes my mouth water.

Meredith slips away without another word, leaving me with my sketches — the only friend I need.

Twirling my pencil between my fingers, I scan the room looking for inspiration.  I feel as though I’m a drummer appeasing the crowd with my solo, yet I know I’m an audience of one.  This morning is too familiar and too mundane to sketch a masterpiece.  At least my pancakes will be out soon, I reassure myself.  All that changes as I see her walk in.

Soft brunette waves attempt to hide her bony shoulders.  The high neckline of her sweater portrays her modesty.  The soft smile she displays speaks of her innocence, but her shifting gaze indicates she hides secrets.

Her tall masculine companion points to the empty booth beside me.  She complies and makes her way toward me.  Flipping open my sketchbook, I’m anxious to unite pencil and paper.  Her face begs to be drawn.

They sit across from each other as friends would, but their tension is as thick as the maple syrup I’ll soon drown my pancakes in.  Her hazel eyes continue to look down while his scan the room.  The stench of his overwhelming cologne almost makes me lose my appetite.  Almost.

Meredith returns with my plate of steaming pancakes.  I push my sketchbook aside and await my treat as giddy as a child at their birthday party.  As Meredith turns to fill the couples’ coffee mugs, I lick my lips as I dump copious amounts of sticky syrup.  Instead of clearing my plate in record time, I shove a wide piece of pancake in my mouth and return my attention to my sketchbook.

I begin drawing her jawline as they exchange awkward small talk.  My lines form the bridge of her pointed nose and wide eyes.  I take note of her satin pink lips that remind me of my ballet slippers from my adolescence.  Even the sadness depicted in her forming tears is beautiful.

They take turns sipping their coffee as the other speaks.  Feeling included, I take bites of my pancakes in between pencil marks.  I desire to resemble an ounce of her beauty.  My greasy hair and bigger build of genetics just didn’t have it in the cards I suppose.  Perhaps if she understood how beautiful she was, she wouldn’t care about whatever letdown this guy would be.

“It’s over,” she mumbled as the man shook his head in denial.

I shoved another bite in my mouth, upset that I didn’t have popcorn for the show instead.

“You can’t get caught with two other women and expect me to stay,” she states.

I try to hide the fact I nearly choked on my pancakes as I begin to chug iced water.

As he attempts to reconcile, I finish the important details of her face as if I know she’ll be leaving soon.  Making final notes to myself, I intend to perfect this portrait later.  The man’s pleas are getting desperate and even I’m getting annoyed by his presence.

With one last swig of her coffee, the woman slams her mug back on the table.  “It’s over!” she screams before storming out.  Baffled, the man buries his head in his hands and begins to cry as though a part of him died.  Considering how beautiful she was, I imagine part of him no longer lives.

Pushing my plate aside, I gather my belongings and leave a ten dollar bill for Meredith.  As good as these pancakes are there’s no point in me staying.  My inspiration has left and so should I.

As I begin to leave, the man looks up at me.  “I tried,” he sobbed.

I grasped my sketchbook and looked out the window.  There is no trace of the woman.  She’s gone forever.

“Clearly not hard enough,” I said before making my way out of the café.


Until next post,



Photo credit:  dearjenni at http://www.freeimages.com/photo/cosy-cafe-1629726


One thought on “A Glimpse – The Value of People Watching

  1. Umm, chills. Your writing..it was all so perfectly descriptive like watching a movie through the words. I love it! My fav piece yet!


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