The art of people watching, and what are they saying about me??

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How many activities can keep you entertained for an entire day and not cost you a penny? I have no idea, but I know of one  for sure. The art of people watching is a skill Monica and I have worked toward perfecting for close to a decade now, and the beach trip we took this month ramped up activities in a major way.


To people watch is to observe our fellow humans in their natural environment and take stock of how we behave and interact… The results have been shocking.


Yes, line dancing...
Yes, line dancing…


The fact that we had a watchful eye – well 4 watchful eyes – at the beach led to us witnessing the rescue of a girl who got sucked out to sea in a rip-current, a brawl between 8 apparently wasted college buddies during our 7 am run, the tumble of a wind-tossed umbrella toward playing toddlers (they were saved), the bake of our new buddy (the lobster) when he forgot not just a spot of his body to apply sunscreen – he forgot the whole thing, and countless other wonderfully concerning and enlightening activities. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. First we need to know how this is all possible. We need to learn the art of people watching.


Headless lobster - to protect the innocent.
Headless lobster – to protect the innocent.


Requirements (for people watching via beach)


Before you even think about properly watching people you need to make sure that, in your possession, you have a pair of sunglasses that cover ~25% of your face, preferably a chair (but a towel will do), maybe a hat, and decent weather… These items don’t cost you a ton of money but, in combination, will net you one heck of a good time.


If you’re going for the advanced people watching (like taking your fishing trip away from the dock and out to the deep sea) we can include the presence of a book or magazine. The study subjects are less likely to notice your presence and therefore more likely to be amazingly inspirational in what they’re willing to say or do.


Now, we typically do this people watching in the mall or at sporting events or other activities but the beach is the true measure. It’s where people are on vacation, away from major responsibilities other than keeping themselves and their loved ones alive and out of jail (some do better than others with the jail part), and apparently throw their inhibitions to the wind. Everything is in play, to the point that the line of decent and acceptable behavior not to be crossed is obliterated a mile behind you… It’s amazing!


Other than the events mentioned above, these time-tested methods of people watching led to us seeing 4 white girls sing and dance to country music in one instance then pivot to hard-core gangsta rap the next (complete with the explicit lyrics and booty-shaking to a minor degree)… The family with 3 kids under 5 next to them didn’t seem to mind. We imagined the parents got to relive their college years – if only for a set of 5 songs – then wonder how long after Tupac released that album  that these 4 girls were born. Close to a decade?? I’d say so.


We saw 2 girls ‘bumping’ a volleyball back and forth in the general vicinity of 2 other, completely and apparently unrelated, girls passing a soccer ball. Both sets were less than good to the point that Monica and I considered just trailing one of the soccer players to knock out the days workout (she’d have to run half the length of the beach to chase down the ball her ‘friend’ kicked over her head).


As an avid beach volleyballer I was beside myself. Not because I’d had a few at this point in the day, but because it’s not too hard to get 3 hits in before the ball hits the ground… Monica reminded me they were practicing and we did note improvement throughout the day. Then something happened. The soccer ball rolled toward the feet of one of the volleyballers and the ensuing events were ironic to the point that Alanis Morissette could’ve written a song about it. A volleyballer made a perfect kick to one of the soccer players at least 50 feet away, a feat they hadn’t accomplished all day. She turned and in our minds thought to herself, “I win the day and all others bow to me.” In that moment we forgot how poor her volleyball skills had become.


Another amazing aspect of beach people watching is that different times of the day bring out different crowds


Your a.m. variety of folk


Up and coming family.
Young and upcoming family.


Without question the cutest of groups. Here we have our young and upcoming families, our senior citizens, workout enthusiasts, and other peeps who have the whole day in front of them with a myriad of possibilities. They’re inspirational and downright fun to watch. Maybe they’re reading a book, teaching little Joey to build a sandcastle, or getting a walk in before the day heats up, but at any rate these guys and gals make you feel good about life.


Your mid-day crowd


These are the “This sun feels so good I don’t need sunscreen,” team. Everyone appears to think they’ve got one heck of a base coat to the point that they don’t need or even know what sunscreen is. Those concerned about the sun are up for lunch or under an umbrella counting lobsters (those who’ve had too much sun) or sipping a nice beverage which will place them in a different category this afternoon…


We can also add high-schoolers or recent grads to this group. Most often you’ll see them applying a coat of sunscreen before all the football, volleyball, and soccer playing. They show us it is possible to be responsible sun-goers by forgoing lobsterfication (look it up).




Now we’re getting somewhere in the people watching department. Kids are still playing sports or riding waves, but it’s the ‘adults’ you need to watch out for here… Anyone 21 years-old, or close to it, is in the sweet spot of being able to produce highly entertaining moments.


There’s literally no limit to what may be seen here, so I won’t attempt to put this group into a box. I’ll just say – watch out for ladies who were laying down, tied the top of their bathing suit but forgot the bottom then produced an incident upon standing, dudes that were once sipping that nice beverage peacefully but now wandered out to sea a bit too far and needed rescued, or other random beach shenanigans.


Also, does anyone else notice or wonder why they seem to employ the tiniest girls to push around the drink or ice cart in the heat of the day? These girls seem to have to work so hard just to get the cart from one lifeguard stand to the next… I want to go and help them out but then I remember I’m on vacation…


Best time of the day-ers




Defined as the hour, to hour plus, of time immediately preceding sunset. The beach is beautiful, next to deserted, and not too warm. We’ve got our morning crowd back and now the kids are doing cuter things while the workout enthusiasts run by. These guys restore our faith in humanity after a day full of, “Wait a minute, did he just…?”


Time for reflection


After a day of entertainment, I’d be lying to say I (we) weren’t part of one or more of these groups at different times. I just think I know what they’d be saying about me throughout the day – either under their breath or not. I’m taking a stab at it here:




“Aww… Look at how cute that little girl is, and the parents teaching her to make a sandcastle – priceless. That guy is pretty good looking too…”


“What, does this guy think he’s in the AVP (pro volleyball tour) or something? Tell him to tone it down a notch, he’s embarrassing himself.”


“There he goes running out into the waves like a flailing child again, doesn’t he have a kid to watch?” No worries – she’s up napping with grandma.


“Dude, it’s not cool to go and ask kids if they want to throw the ball around – grow up.” Hey, little Ryan had fun playing catch. That kid has a good arm, he could be famous someday…


I couldn't find a place but this needed to be added to this article.
I couldn’t find a place but this picture needed to be added to this article.



That’ll be all for our people watching for now. I’ll just sprinkle in a couple southerner quotes we picked up on during the trip… They are definitely a ton of fun to be around, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be humorous too. Do your best to imagine a southern accent here:


“You know, I’m 265lbs but I don’t even look like I weigh that much…”


“I wanted to cook one more time while we was here. I was gonna cook my pot roast but Leonard, you been spoiling us”


Nice work team, nice work.


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– Mike
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