Looking and Seeing

I have recently starting editing a podcast for a healthcare-centered design company. I go into the recording studio with the co-founders/co-hosts, and chuckle quietly while they poke at each other and talk about healthcare. Then I take the audio home and I start crafting. It’s honestly one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

Last week the theme was Observation, and their conversation is still rattling around in my brain, probably because I have to listen to it A LOT. Yesterday was full of frustrating appointments and tedious meetings, and two bongo players that seemed to be following me from train car to train car, scoring the soundtrack to my nightmare. New York is vibrant and loud and always moving, and I am often able to float along at the pace it requires without too much whining. But yesterday fucking sucked.

So I did something I haven’t done in a long, long time: I bought a falafel sandwich from a halal cart, and I sat down and ate it. Normally I eat them on the run, which is the worst way to enjoy any kind of food, but especially terrible with falafel sandwiches, because most of it ends up on the ground.

I sat on the steps of Federal Hall and watched people, trying not to simply look, but to observe. How do you really see something? And what’s the point?

I watch life closely and then I try to figure out what it all means. I always have. I can’t remember facts and figures, or whether or not something I read was a legit article or a clickbaity headline. I can’t remember which celebrities are dead or just old (Shirley Temple: RIP; Tina Turner: 78 years old), and the other day I realized I had no clue whether or not Bill Clinton actually got impeached (yes- 1998). Those things aren’t tangible enough for me. I have always tried to watch real people closely and without judgement: their unconscious tics and their vocal habits and the shape of their hands. I could spend an hour on my roof looking at the skyline, telling myself little stories about every building, new and old.

Sometimes I need to remind myself to put my phone away, sit on some steps, eat a sandwich and watch all the different ways a tourist can pose in front of the Stock Exchange. For me, it’s not about seeing something crazy or life-changing or worthy of a room-quieting story. I’m content to simply think about all the people who live on this gorgeous planet with me, allowing my eyes to blur with the bigness and smallness of everything, and then letting it all fall away. Everything except the lettuce on my falafel sandwich.

PS: I’ll share the episode I referenced when it comes out in the fall, but if you’re curious about this podcast, please check out the first two seasons at: yahnopodcast.com.