June 30, 2010

Perfect Strangers

Do you ever make up elaborate stories about complete strangers?

I ask because I tend to. But I also talk to myself out loud and when I was a kid believed that there was a tiny elf named Pixie Pete that lived in my house and visited me in the night. So I'm not what literature would call a reliable narrator. But I do worn about people. Case in point - the people who run my neighborhood dry cleaners.

When I started going to that particular dry cleaners it became immediately clear to me that the owners were husband and wife. The husband is an older gentleman, maybe around 70, a tall, lanky American, slightly stooped. The wife is a bit younger but only by five years or so. She's an elegant woman who has aged well. She is Korean. They both have an amazing talent for remembering me - first and last name and my last name isn't easy - whenever I walk through their door. And seeing that I'm fairly lazy and only end up dropping off laundry once or twice a month, at most, it's pretty impressive. That's why I go back.

I'm afraid to ask them about their story. It's really none of my business. So I imagine that they met when he was a young soldier in Korea. He was, perhaps, an Army officer. She, a teacher in a local school. He and his fellow officers strolled past the school on their way to a local bar each evening. Maybe it was during those walks that they first saw each other. And seeing each other turned out to be a highlight of their days so they closely, secretly watched their clocks to ensure they were in the same place at the same time on each day. One day, for whatever reason, they were thrust together or ripped apart but whatever the cause, they found each other again, fell in love, moved to America and lived happily ever after.

Everyone has a story, how they came to be, well, them. Sometimes if we don't we don't know the truth, we fill in the gaps with our imaginations. Me, well, I like the story of my Dry Cleaning Couple.

Back to my question - do you make up stories about strangers? And how amusing is people watching to you?

Posted by Chris at June 30, 2010 6:30 AM

I love people watching...I wouldn't say I make up a story for those I am observing, but I like to wonder what brought them together and why they are here and where they are going. I just can't string it together with dialogue!

Interestingly that your story has them meeting in Korea and you posted it today...as we are in the Korea-War anniversary period!

Posted by: Angelica at June 30, 2010 7:09 AM

Ha! Funny you should mention this. One of my favorite places to be is in an air port. I was by myself a few months ago and spent the time texting a friend describing what I was seeing. (who!) It was hilarious. I even explained to her about moose knuckles. The story surrounding that was quite entertaining!

Posted by: Christy at June 30, 2010 7:31 AM

i think people watching is one of my very favorite hobbies!!! yes, i make up stories...and sometimes try to be a story!!! on a date at the airport dressed quite out of character (for me) smoking a slim cigar, walking around the international terminal.... sometimes... being the story is fun!!! try it sometime...

Posted by: theunicorn at June 30, 2010 7:34 AM

I love people watching and I make up stories about people too. It's fun! Considering the couple's ages, your story probably isn't too far from the truth.

Posted by: Elizabeth at June 30, 2010 8:31 AM

Or, OR: her parents were born here. They met when he backed into her car at the supermarket. She noticed an extensive porn collection in the back seat of his car and he found himself having to explain that he was helping his stupid friend move. THEN he felt he had to take her to meet the stupid friend to prove it and by that time, they were in love.

Posted by: harmzie at June 30, 2010 9:26 AM

Your story you very well be true! We are living in Korea right now (military) and most of the American soldiers date Korean gals that they meet out in restuarants or bars or shops. It is so so common for a soldier to serve in Korea and meet and marry a Korean girl.

Posted by: alfredsmom at June 30, 2010 9:30 AM

I did that all the time when I lived in New York. Elevators and mostly empty subways were the most fun. I'd be riding with a bike messenger with dreadlocks, an Asian guy delivering food, a bald 20-something with very expensive glasses and and elderly woman carrying tons of bags or something.

I'd try to come up with a quick, "But Little Did They Know" story about the adventure that was about to bring us all a little closer in completely unexpected ways. I'm not sure it would have been so much fun without the phrase "but little did they know."

Posted by: robert muller at June 30, 2010 10:23 AM

One of our favorite games is to make up entire stories about people we see in public, like the pub or the airport..."Hmmm...they met online, she has a daught--WAIT--twin boys. One of them's in the army, the other one is still at home, waiting for his band to make it big. This is their thir--NO--second date, so he doesn't know about the boys yet. But he's hoping she's ok with his miniature schnauzer figurine collection..."

So, YES. All the time. :) Our next step is to get the guts to ask our characters if we're right on any counts...

Posted by: mandy at June 30, 2010 10:23 AM

I do this ALL the time. I used to have a running narrative about the people in a hi-rise apartment building that I pass on my way to work. I need to check back in with them. (In my imagination, of course, since I haven't ever met a soul who lives there.)

I also love looking into people's windows (as we drive by in the car - I'm not pressing my nose against the glass or anything) (yet) and making up stories about the snippets I see. That guy in the kitchen window? He's doing the dishes after making his famous fajitas. It's the only dish he can cook, but he's pretty good at it.

Oh, and by "American" I assume you mean "generic white guy," yes? As an American who looks more like the dry cleaning wife than husband, the term confused me at first.

Posted by: lumpyheadsmom at June 30, 2010 10:25 AM

I sometimes make up stories about people. Many times it's in Wal*Mart about the sad lives people lead because they must not have friends, because if they had friends, their friends wouldn't let them dress as horribly as they do....

I do tend to think up happy stories when I see happy families though :)

Posted by: Rose @Dozenroses13 at June 30, 2010 10:28 AM

I don't make up stories about people... but people sure do make up stories about me!

I have been yelled at for being to young to have a baby (I am not too young), I've had anti-Semite comments directed at me (I am not Jewish), and some teenage girls a few weeks ago thought I was my 4 year old daughter's *sister*. (Come on, that's a bit too much!)

One of those teens started talking to me like I was also a teenager. I had to kindly explain to her that I was in college when she was born.

So no, I don't make up stories about people, but I am constantly reminded that we should never judge people because we just don't know their story.

Posted by: jessica at June 30, 2010 10:34 AM

I don't create stories as much as seem to get a read on their emotions based on their faces, and get a general feel for how happy their world is. For example, the angry looking mom in the minivan, or the stern businessman in the expensive car, or the happy hippie girl in the Honda; I get to see a moment or two of their world, but it speaks volumes.

And your whole point about not knowing your neighbors; it all starts with casual conversations; the off hand "So how did you two meet?" can open up a whole new world of friendship for you. So find out the real story. We'll wait. ;)

Posted by: metawizard at June 30, 2010 11:21 AM

People watching! It's a good way to spend slow afternoons with no sales at the numerous art/craft/festivals we attend. Some stories, but most often it's the games..."Pregnant or Not?" "Do They Look Like Their Dog" "Love Sarah Palin" and my favorite, "Whos the Mom?"

Posted by: Amy at June 30, 2010 12:29 PM

I don't make up stories about them, but I do watch out of the corner of my eye. What I do best, though, is listen. I'm an eavesdropper extroadanaire.

Posted by: rcat at June 30, 2010 1:56 PM

Oh yeah, I sure do people watch, although I don't necessarily make up stories about them. I did have a seat mate recently on a plane who was truly interesting and when I Googled her name later on I was amazed at the life she has led. Better than anything either one of us could dream up!

Posted by: Maribeth at June 30, 2010 4:20 PM

OMG, I do this all the time. When we went to the resort in Mexico, everybody had nicknames and stories. Granted, it was all in me and my husbands heads, but it kept us entertained. Especially after alot of alcohol. haha

Posted by: Christine at June 30, 2010 10:50 PM

i like people watching and making up stories abou them... but i'm kind of snarky by nature. i should work on my more heart warming stories :)

Posted by: kati at July 1, 2010 1:05 AM

I love people watching, when I have the time, and making up stories is the best part of all!

Posted by: Heather at July 1, 2010 1:50 AM