Sunday Scribblings: The Frog Notes Assignment Blues

This week's Sunday Scribblings is an assignment.

This is a proper assignment, you need to take this seriously.

As a character in an H.G. Wells story might put it: pshaw.


This is my notebook, in which I am supposed to note things, such as interesting people I see:

I must confess that I have been lax with my people watching of late. Perhaps it's because I've been in my home town, worrying about myself, that I haven't had much chance to pay attention to the familiar-seeming people who I walk past. Commuting to university was the best time to jot down notes about people, it seems. I always find travelling by public transport relaxing. You can sit back and daydream and look out the window, and it's not up to you if you're late or early. Except when you get bored waiting, walk to the next bus stop and miss your ride.

I have several pages in my frog notebook of brief descriptions of people I saw, trying to distil what it was about them that caught my eye into one fragmentary sentence. With some people it was easier than with others - they are interesting enough to recall in detail, only using my notes as a prompt. Meandering through the town centre one afternoon, for example, was a short, obviously mentally disabled man, the word 'police' written on the back of his grubby beige coat in blue biro. He walked slowly and authoritatively, hands clasped behind his back. When I first saw him, outside some busy shops, a real police officer in a fluorescent yellow jacket was watching from a short distance away. Later, while walking back to uni, I saw him just outside the town centre, surveying a bench and litter bin with paternal concern.

Then there was the Russian man whose phone call I was privy to one day on the train home. I have to say, I don't mind this sort of thing much. The only thing that annoys me is when the train moves through an area with bad reception and you have to listen to them saying 'Hello?' over and over until they get a signal back. My notes read: 'Blond mop of hair; shirt, tie and jeans, has accent - mentions Russian.' He was speaking to someone who was clearly associating with someone he thought was bad news. He was adamant that if his friend saw this person again they should say, 'You are registered for police!' and refuse to speak to them. He was quite resolute that the phrase 'You are registered for police' should be used.

Girls caught my eye, funnily enough, especially those who managed to stand out in some eccentric little way. It's easy to fall for someone you know nothing about and only see once, because you can make up everything about them except the way they acted and were dressed when you saw them. There was the artsy scruffiness of a willowy, caramel-toned girl, her messy hair tied up in a scarf, searching for a spot in the sun. Or the fashion-conscious nerdiness of a girl with knee-high stockings, black-rimmed glasses and a sky-blue coat, walking by a lake.

As well as people, I'd try to note down anything strikingly unusual I saw, especially things that didn't immediately leap out at you - such as the very un-CSI fashion in which a platform was cordoned off at one station I passed through, police tape tied to brooms sticking out of the tops of little 'Caution Slippery Floor' cones. And one day I decided that, rather than paying attention in a lecture, I would try to write in my notebook a comprehensive description of the lecture theatre in which the myriad little things on the ceiling were the true living creatures and the human beings were mere ambience. The lecturer for example: "A bass noise drones rhythmically, and a miasma of dry, factual information seeps through the air, both emanating from the same source." Interestingly, I got a mark of about 30% in that module, and it pulled my whole average down.

Looking over my notes, I can see a wealth of interesting little observations, many of which could happily be dropped into any story from a great height to produce a few pleasant ripples. Suddenly I feel a little guilty for neglecting my notes for the past little while. I wonder how many interesting people and things I've missed out on. The fact that my notes are actually spread out between two notebooks, neither one anywhere near full is also a cause for consternation. I shall have to copy them up from one to the other. And my frog will have to come out of the house much more often. I don't think he'd mind.


tinker said...

So many good characterizations in here. But my favorite has to be "You are registered for police!"

(However, I think that line should be prefaced by "Avast!")

The frog notebook intrigues me - I'm betting it's caught many observations from the fly on the wall!


paris parfait said...

People are so interesting - and you´ve made some great observations. Well done.

Jerri said...

Your eye for detail makes for interesting vignettes. Don't let the froggy dry out--Keep that notebook handy.

Michelle said...

I always watch people more closely when I am out of my environs. Here, they are easily categorized, and ignored.

It is so easy to get a crush based on first impressions...

Anonymous said...

Our subways provide a similar opportunity for people watching and drifting. But, out here, if you are caught staring at someone, you might have to fight him/her. So most of us read, listen to music, wear sunglasses if appropriate, and baseball caps down low.

Catherine said...

You almost make me want to take the bus to work, instead of driving. Except that it would take about two hours, with a change of buses, instead of 30 minutes in the car. Fun observations -especially the Russian!

Roadchick said...

Very interesting - it reminds the 'chick of an observation she did during a gambling cruise a few years ago. There were good intentions to use that for a post, but time (as usual) got away.
You're right - the Frog needs to travel more. The 'chick needs to carry a notebook more often.
ps~the package should be on its way soon...something needs to be included that isn't in the 'chick's possession just yet.

Pacian said...

something needs to be included that isn't in the 'chick's possession just yet.

Ooh... I think I know just what you're talking about. Now, when the 'chick removes the idol from its pedestal, she must be sure to replace it with something that weighs exactly the same. That or she has to run very fast.

susanna said...

Your writing always makes me smile, Pacian. I like your description of the Russian man and his telephone conversaton. And your decision to describe your lecture room instead of actually listening to the lecture made me laugh. I used to work at an art college in Toronto, Canada, and you would've loved the artsy girlie fashion there. I loved their creativity. When I was a first year student at the same college, there was a fourth year student, a girl, who would dress up as a French clown every day. Really! She even had the goofy big shoes, pointy white hat and bright red nose. Now there was a confident woman!