“it’s not polite to stare.”

that’s one of the fundamental rules of politeness, i’d imagine, along with “don’t pick your nose” and “close your mouth when you chew.”

i learned it, but it’s a hard rule for me to obey — along with “don’t sit crossed-legged at the dinner table.” my excuse on that one is that my legs are short and i don’t like sitting in chairs.

my excuse for watching people is that they’re just so terribly fascinating.

okay, really, i probably don’t stare that much.

i love to watch people as they drive by when i’m a passenger or not in a vehicle. i love to look at the drivers on either side of me when i’m stopped at a light. i love watching shoppers, cashiers and sackers in the grocery store. i like watching the differences in how people eat (i don’t always enjoy it, though).

i love watching people when they talk, or when they’re watching other people talk. i love watching how they react to other people. i love watching what they say or don’t say, do or don’t do. i love watching the strain of indecision … all of this may be frustrating for them (and for me) in the moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting or worth studying.

i love watching people together or by themselves. i love watching people as they fall in love, or as they figure out they really are going to survive without that one person they want more than anyone else.

i love watching the particular way in which people say or express things. this is how i can tell someone “you just went into explaining mode” when that person didn’t realize he or she had a particular set of characteristics that went along with explanations. (chronicling the modes of people’s moods or communication is perhaps one of my favorite aspects of character study.) (and after watching a person’s face fall when i said “and that’s your explaining tone of voice and set of motions” i decided to never say that again. i realized — after the fact — that it sounded condescending.)

all this to say that if you catch me looking at you longer than the constraints of politeness and propriety allow, don’t be weirded out. i’ve probably just decided you are fascinating.

after all, it’s my business to find people fascinating.