There are few simple pleasures that i enjoy as much as people-watching. it’s one of those pursuits that costs nothing and can be enjoyed pretty much any time, anywhere, and no matter what else you happen to be doing. Whether it’s watching daily life unfold around me over the rim of my coffee cup at a café, evesdropping on conversations on the train, or simply observing everyday people as they go about their everyday business, there’s a great deal of pleasure to be had from just watching and wondering about about the worlds of the strangers around me. Perhaps i’ve missed my vocation – i’m sure i’d have made a great spy; but it was never an option at school careers’ fairs!
That aside, many of the things i observe taking place around me – crazy things that don’t seem to register as crazy for the people doing them – leave me somewhat bemused.
Take, for example, parents with young children – an aspect of life that i don’t think i’ll ever truly understand, maybe because i’ve never been in that position, but principally because i just don’t get how having a baby can possibly affect anyone’s brain so badly that all semblance of normality flies out of the window!
Let’s imagine the simple exercise of going on a short car journey: For me, it’s a case of grabbing my bag, keys, locking the door behind me, jumping in the car, starting up and driving off – a couple of minutes, tops. Now, of course, having a young child in tow is going to slow things down a little, but every time i’ve seen someone with a youngster preparing to go on even the shortest journey, it strikes me as being more involved and convoluted than preparing an astronaut to go to the moon!
Take the couple i watched preparing to go out, whilst i enjoyed my breakfast this weekend, at the same time, taking an keen interest in what was happening just outside my window. Forty minutes! No word of a lie. The routine went something like this:
Dad walks out to car carrying pushchair and baby seat.
Mum comes out with baby – hands baby to dad and returns to house.
Mum returns with giant mystery holdall.
Complicated manoeuvre involving holdall and baby swapping between parents.
Dad opens car boot and spends ten minutes unsuccessfully trying to load pushchair and holdall.
Mum hands baby to dad and tries to pack car boot. Fails.
Dad hands baby to mum, tries boot again and is finally successful.
Dad fits baby seat on rear seat, passenger side.
Mum goes to other side of car, inserts baby and both parents secure child from their respective sides of car.
Mum gets into front passenger seat, closes door.
Dad walks round car closing all remaining doors, gets in.
Mum gets out, opens each rear door, rummages and closes door, opens boot, rummages, walks back into house.
Dad gets out of car, closes boot, gets back in.
Mum returns with small mystery bag, opens boot, inserts bag, closes boot and gets in.
Dad gets out, returns to house, returns to car shortly after, opens boot, rummages, closes boot and gets in.
They drive off!
Ten minutes later, i’m halfway through my second cup of coffee, and they’re back… only to repeat all the above again, in reverse! In all, getting on for an hour’s pre and post activity, for a ten minute journey.
Now that may be an extreme example, (although i fear it isn’t!), but it’s a graphic illustration of how complicated modern life appears to have made even the simplest of journeys. This morning at the station – people-watching again – i was struck by the inordinate amount of baggage that seems to accompany almost every trip. Granted, at the station there will be a few people on their way to the airport or off hiking in the Cairngorms for a week or two, but why on earth do businessmen, everyday commuters and people off for a day’s shopping in the next town feel the need to equip themselves as if off for an Himalayan adventure? Surely a briefcase is sufficient for a banker’s sandwiches? But no… they’ll happily head off to the office lugging a rucksack that would make a Royal Marine wince! Almost everybody on this morning’s train was burdened with at least one of these beasts, and i can’t for the life of me think what might be contained in them, because considering everything you’d expect to be squirrelled away, there clearly wasn’t room inside for any of it, because it was all being carried elsewhere… newspaper, giant insulated mugs, headphones, iPods, iPads, iPhones – iKid you not.
It’s truly mind-boggling to me. Even for the longest of journeys, i can get by on hand luggage – just the essentials: cameras, lenses, toothbrush, toiletries, a couple of changes of clothing and a guidebook. i can pack for a round-the-world trip in less time than it takes my neighbours to install their baby in the car! What happened to the world to make travelling so damned complicated?
Can you imagine if we felt compelled to put the same amount of effort into getting around in sl? We’d never go anywhere! If we had to pack our bags, weigh our luggage, wrestle with cases and contend with baggage retrieval every time we wanted to teleport or cross a Sim border, we’d never even consider leaving home, (that’s if we could face logging-in at all, in the first place). We may think that sl is a small world purely in geographical terms, when really it’s also a small world because it is so ridiculously simple to get from one location to another, almost without thought. No tickets, no passports, no baggage carousels, no fuss… and yet, whether we realise it or not, behind the scenes all of those inconveniences – and more – are being dealt with on our behalf, without us even noticing.
In a complex and horribly convoluted matrix of code and protocols, the ‘simple’ task of getting from A to B is facilitated for us, and unless it goes wrong, we’re not even aware it’s happening. It’s a huge and cumbersome machine bureaucracy that somehow, most of the time, works incredibly well: Border protocols have to be observed, followed, checked, certified and confirmed; electronic ‘passports’ have to be in order, stamped and visas checked; the age-old exchange of questions takes place at every arrival and departure – ‘where are you from, what is your destination, purpose of visit?’; tickets are checked for validity, gates and seats allocated and all travel documents confirmed to be in order. Then, and only then can the teleport or Sim crossing properly take place.
And that’s not to mention our luggage! Yes, every time we leave one location for another, every single thing that we’re carrying, wearing or otherwise hanging on to has to be accounted for – at both departure and arrival – packed, sent, unpacked, checked and returned to its rightful owner. It’s a wonder any of it manages to survive the journey at all!
All this happens, if not in the blink of an eye, at the most in a few short seconds – my baby juggling neighbours could definitely learn a lot from sl!
Travelling in sl is equally, if not more complicated than in the real world, but the big difference – thank goodness – is that most of the time we never even notice.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, i need to pack my rucksack for work tomorrow!
Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you
UB40 – Every Breath You Take