Tuesday, September 30, 2008

People Watching, Take 1

People are Funny.

My work used to involve a lot of travel - airports, hotels, and restaurants. I travelled every week for 10 years, spending a lot of time alone - sitting and waiting for planes or meals. I mastered the art of amusing myself by watching the people around me. It was that or drift off to sleep sitting up (which I got very good at too).

Today I went to Centro for dinner. I wanted to try a small Italian place, on a side street (Madero). The place is called Frase. I had passed it the other day (when I wasn't looking for food) so stopped to check if they were open in the evening (meaning 5-6 pm for me). Yes, they stay open until 10 pm.

Today was one of those rainy, cloudy, cool days - a day for jeans and spaghetti. I bundled up in my windbreaker and rain poncho and hailed a taxi to Frase. I placed my order, and was told it would be about 20 minutes. I sat at the table near the open doorway, and proceeded to observe my surroundings.

It was raining - more than a drizzle. Across the street, up on the top of a building under construction, was an albanil (cement mason). The albanil was standing on the edge of the wall (two stories up), with an aluminum ladder in his hands. The objective was to place the ladder on the roof below him - all the while balancing on that wall without holding onto anything other than the ladder.

There was already another ladder leaned against that wall right beside where he was going to place the aluminum one. After dropping the ladder over the edge and propping it against the wall, he casually stepped off the edge, placing his feet on the tip of the siderails of the wooden ladder. I expected him to climb down - it was raining, afterall. But no, he stood on the tips of the ladder, facing out, gazing at the rooftops around him. He didn't care about the rain, he was taking a break.

Also across the street is a pharmacy. The rain from the roof was shooting out of the rain pipe to the street below. A woman came out of the store with a bucket, and she placed it under the pipe in order to catch the rain water. In my half-dazed state, I was thinking she put the bucket there to stop the rain from going in the street (which makes NO sense at all, I realize). Then she appeared with another small pail and a pink rag - and proceeded to wash the storefront windows with the soapy water.

Then I really started to pay attention, because to rinse the windows she held a 1 qt plastic container under the draining pipe to catch the rain water. But even though the water was pouring out, she only held it there for a couple of seconds. She then threw the tiny bit of water she'd collected at the window. It did nothing. She did this twice. I began to feel smugly superior in intelligence. Why wouldn't she dip the container in the bucket and fill it quickly and throw the full container at the window to rinse it?

She must have read my mind. Her third attempt to rinse involved dipping the container in the bucket of rain water, just like I'd laid out in my mind. However, that is when her intelligence surpassed mine. She did not throw the water at the window like I would have done. She pushed the container up against the glass and slowly moved it back and forth and let just enough water escape to rinse the glass. She only had to do this twice to cover the entire pane of glass. I then realized this was not the first time this woman had done this - she had a method. In fact, she probably had been waiting for a good rain in order to collect the rinse water.

The woman proceeded to wash all the storefront windows, inside and out, with her technique. She seemed to be enjoying the process. It then dawned on me how dumb I was to think the bucket had been placed in the street to save the street from getting wet; it was there to collect the water for her rinse.

Feeling very stupid and outsmarted by then, I lost interest in the whole thing and proceeded to study the walls of the restaurant. Luckily my spaghetti arrived shortly after so I occupied myself with eating. That is one thing I'm really good at - twirling spaghetti noodles. I thought the Italian owners might pay me a compliment on my twirling abilities, but they stayed behind the counter and I don't think they even noticed my skills. I wonder if the albanil or the woman across the street were watching me twirl.


Scottozoid said...

Sue, I doubt if the albanil or the lavandera or the dueno were watching you twirl, or watching each other work...but YOU were watching and that is what makes reading your blog so fascinating...

Ann said...

Is this a new restaurant? Always looking for new places to try...Great observations--I love to people watch, too!

Anonymous said...

Sue, is that the little place next to (the original) Cool Ice Cream??

Another people watcher here!

Life's a Beach! said...

Funny Sue! That's a good place to people watch. I haven't tried the Italian place, but spent a lot of evenings next door at Cool watching people. Did the little dog at the pharmacy sit and watch you? :)

Islaholic Trixie said...

Love your commentary of people watching. I will definately have to check out this place the end of October.

Houston said...

I always enjoy reading your blog, Sue, but this entry is something special. Thanks!

Sue said...

Ok guys, I replied to those of you who commented yesterday, but it's not here, so I guess I didn't save it. And this is the first time today I've had a chance to check in - one of the worst days for work, in a long time.

Anyway - Scott, Brenda, and Houston - thanks! Glad you enjoyed the observations.

Jam, Jan, and Beck (sounds like a rock group) - yes, it is the small place beside Cool. Close to the type of Italian food I'm used to, although a little heavy on the red chili peppers. Next time I'll suggest they go a little lighter, but otherwise, it was quite good. I am going to eat the pizza I brought home tonight.