Dear Malin Reese,
Standing in line at a coffee shop can be a fascinating experience. For instance, yesterday I stood behind a red head with dreadlocks. I’ve never understood dreadlocks on white people. It seems like an insult to Rastafarian’s. Anyways, the fact that he smelled like ripe mold didn’t distract me from the dying ecosystem on his head. For three minutes I contemplated how many times he’d washed his hair in the last few months. I wondered if a monkey would have had the courage to pick and groom his way through the fiery red heap of hair.
The day before that I had been standing in the same line, sans red-headed dreadlock guy, when I noticed a man standing at the coffee cart where the sugar, straws and cream sit. He was standing over his coffee, lid off, going through a painful process of trying to find the right taste chemistry. He’d pour a quarter of the sugar packet in, stir and then slurp. Unsatisfied, he’d pour another quarter of the sugar packet, add a few splashes of cream and then stir and slurp. He did this four times before he just tossed the coffee in the garbage and stormed his way out.
Rewind to three days ago, standing again in said coffee shop(I spend too much time in coffee shops) and back in the corner at a little one person table was a man clipping his nails. Not his fingernails. His TOENAILS. They must have been really dense toenails too because he was giving a mighty squeeze to each one before he’d snap through them. Each tinny release seemed to give him great pleasure. He wasn’t a vagrant either. He was just some middle-aged white guy wearing khaki shorts, a polo shirt and sandals. To his credit, he was gathering each toenail in a neat little pile for easy cleanup. His tidy toenail mound didn’t seem to appease the lady sitting a few tables away from him, who gathered her laptop, glared in his direction for an awkward amount of time and then left the shop.
The world is a pretty odd place. You’ll find oddities materialize via appearance, behavior, speech etc. So why is observation important? I think you’ll find that observing those oddities and internalizing them can help shape the human being you become. Observation often leads to deeper thinking and my hope is that deeper thinking ultimately leads to compassion and tolerance. In regards to Dreadlock Guy, I found his choice of hairstyle bizarre. But maybe he’s a huge Bob Marley fan and the dreads were a nod to his hero. Maybe he felt like he needed the dreads to individualize himself from the rest of the crowd. Same goes for Angry Coffee Guy. Maybe he has a case of debilitating OCD. Maybe he’s going through a messy divorce and was channeling his anger through an unsatisfying cup of coffee. And the same goes for Toenail Man…actually, no, deeper thinking does not apply to Toenail Man. Clipping your toenails in public is a wretched thing to do. You should be galled if you see this. Your snap judgement that the person is a total creeper is sound thinking.
I’ll finish with this thought; As much as you can, look up and observe the world around you. It’s odd, complicated, beautiful and completely worth it.