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People-watching without a shred of discretion

Got that uneasy sensation somebody's watching you? Did you just look up and catch me peeking into your life?

Oops. My bad. Again.

Truth be told, I can't seem to help myself. I love to people-watch. And, um, sometimes I take notes. Mental or otherwise.

I can certainly see how that could make a person twitchy. Some random stranger peering intently at you as you go about your day. Is that a notepad in her hand? Who IS this woman?

Don't be scared. I mean you no harm. Honest. I'm simply addicted to the Human Condition Channel. It provides commercial-free entertainment — all day, all night and all around us.

But let's be clear here, folks. I'm not talking about peering through anybody's bedroom window, or over the bathroom stall, or anything else freaky-deaky. Nuh uh! I'm simply talking about watching other people's little life vignettes that play out in public venues.

Example: A young couple is walking down the street, swinging their clasped hands. He pulls her in for a hug and a kiss. She melts against him for a moment, then laughs and dances away. They continue on their way toward the Medford library. Both yakking merrily away. Big smiles on their faces.

Suddenly a horn honks. It breaks the spell, and I tear my eyes away from the young lovebirds with a sigh.

The signal has changed. Stepping off the curb, I reflexively look around for another soul whose soul was likewise lifted. But everyone else seems oblivious to the little romantic interlude that just played out before us all.

Their loss. These kids' public display of affection has brightened my day. Brought back some sweet memories. Offered the promise of more. Somewhere. Some day.

"How cute was that?" I think, grinning like a fool, and filing their gift away under "Momentary Treasures."

I show an utter lack of discretion while people-watching. I don't don a big pair of sunglasses and peek over them surreptitiously a time or two. Oh no! I practically pull up a chair and munch on popcorn.

So I shouldn't be surprised when someone gives me a "What are YOU lookin' at!?" glare. But I always am. "Who? Me? Um. Nothing. Can you see me?" (Apparently, I'm also under the delusion that I'm invisible while engaged in my nosiness.)

Maybe this constant observer thing is simply an occupational habit. Too many years spent in city council meetings and such, being the proverbial pesky fly on the wall. A journalist's job is to pay close attention to what's going on and report the findings. Good, bad or indifferent.

Another streetside snapshot from years back can still bring a smile. A young man was teaching a little girl how to cross the street safely. Don't know whether he was her daddy, uncle or what. But it was the sweetest thing, watching this earnest fellow point to the cars and the signal while holding her tiny hand. The little sprite was trying to be so good, while bouncing up and down impatiently. So ready to be on her way.

Another special moment in time. Captured in a column later that week.

In my defense, I'm no voyeur vampire — sucking at everyone else's lifeblood while never offering up a vein myself. My life has also been placed on the table for public consumption. Seems only fair.

Not all people-watching results in warm fuzzies. Last week I saw a couple at a restaurant. Her eyes weren't happy. He looked uneasy. My mind started filling in the blanks. Been there. Done that. Just did that, as a matter of fact.

As I watched this troubled pair, I knew my sympathetic glances couldn't possibly be appreciated. But I couldn't resist offering them. Breaking up really is hard to do.

Yeah. It's true. The Englishman and I recently parted ways, romantically speaking. I know that might come as a shock to some. But, simply put, it was time to let each other go. I'm grateful for the good times we shared. And that we managed to end our relationship as lovingly as we once came together. Mostly, I hope he believed me when I said he'll always hold a special place in my heart. Because he will.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.