Friday, June 4, 2010

Who's Watching?

You can see a lot from looking.

Yogi Berra
(Thank you Bruce.)
Okay, Yogi, why don't we observe things? Why do we pass through life barely paying any attention to the world around us? What a waste of eye sight. Many remarkable things happen which no one notices.

Everywhere one of my neighbors goes he stares at the sidewalk in front of him. An angel could fly over his head he wouldn't know it.

Part of an actor's training is a very difficult observation exercise. A row of chairs is set up and filled with students. Another student observes them for a minute or two then turns his back. Those in the chairs rearrange themselves and take different poses. Then the student turns around and has to restore everyone to their original positions and poses. It is much more difficult than it seems at first and teaches the student to be very careful how he looks at things.

All during the actors life he will observe people. Observing people is an enjoyable experience for most everryone but for the actor it's also work. One never knows when a simple action a person may make will become something the fills out and compliments an entire role.

Some things that people do are automatic. When a man enters a room wearing a hat, if he takes it off he may straighten out the hair on the side of his head. When a woman sits down wearing a skirt or dress she generally scoops her hands under her backside to straighten out the skirt so it won't bunch up or wrinkle. I saw a woman do that once even though she was wearing slacks and didn't need to. It was automatic.

We do those automatic gestures on stage but we do them purposely. We make them look automatic so you will believe us. That way we help to add dimension and reality to the role.

And when not on the stage? When I was in shape I used to know how many tables there were behind me in a restaurant and how many diners there were at them, how many lamp posts there were between my home and where I worked and how many steps there were on the back stairs, a good thing to know when they were covered with snow.

One evening at Christmastime I was traveling back here from New York City. A man got on with three large bags. He put two of them overhead in the rack, but there wasn't room for the third one there so he put it up in another place. I was sitting two rows behind him with my backpack next to me. He may have been nodding off but he wasn't ready when the train reached his destination. The train had stopped and was about to leave the station when he realized where he was He jumped up and grabbed the two bags over his head and started down the aisle toward the door. In his rush he had forgotten the third one.

I was evidently the only one who had noticed where he put that bag. I got up and called to him about it. He turned and started back but I told him to get to the door and keep the train from leaving and I would bring the bag. I did and he told me the bag was full of the Christmas gifts for his kids. He was very grateful. He got off the train with everything.

When I got back to my seat there was a man sitting in it. As I approached he stood up and said "I sat here so no one would steal your backpack." I thanked him and he went back to his seat. Two people being alert, looking and seeing things saved a lot of property.



I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

Observation of what is around us certain does enhance our lifestyle as well as that of others for sure. I've spent so many days just looking and gleaning what I can from what I see. Thank you for that very good entry today!

pacifica62 said...

We often go through life with blinders on seeing only what is sort of straight ahead at eye level. Every once in a while on a boring bus commute, I decide to look up and discover a whole new world I barely knew existed ---yet it has always been there if I had opened my eyes to see it. I remember once doing a "memory game" with a police officer and trained observer. An action was presented and then we had to tell him what we had seen. Our observations were very different from the actual reality. How reliable is the "eye witness". I can also spend a delightful couple of hours at the beach, coffee in hand, people watching. Life definitely captures more of our attention and imagination when we open our eyes to see the world around us.

Rose said...

I was very touched by this story. Thank you for sharing.

I love observing but I do recall when I was young and first started to wear very high heels, a woman had to keep her head down while walking to make sure she would not stumble on a pebble or get stuck on one of those grates on the sidewalk in the city.............

I laughed when I read the part of the automatic gestures. I still til this day smooth my hands on my backside before sitting down! LOL

Great Post!

Hugs, Rose

Bonnie Bonsai said...

Exercising our motor memory helps keep 'alzheimer's' away especially for the ageing people. Observation just does that. However, it also requires sharp focus to familiarize situations.

No matter how we try remembering things, there will always a time where we slip.

Gladly, on your part, you were quick to offer your assistance where it was most needed. In return, someone also observed what you did and he protected yours so you won't leave the train without your thing.

(One crucial point in my life, I lost all my valuables: personal papers, wallet and purse with money on three different occasions. I knew where I put them (in a public place) but I just forgot to pick them up in my hurry. My observation? In this world where honesty is rarely a value let alone a commodity, you won't believe that those things I considered lost were all returned to me UNTOUCHED!)

I never forget thanking God for His protection.