So I'm sitting in line at the Avanti's pickup window on a chilly Friday night, waiting to pick up dinner for my kids, who opted to stay home and play video games rather than go out to a restaurant with their mom.
As I sit in my car, I watch the people in front of me getting their gondolas and raviolis. I look over to the parking lot and see couples and families walking in and out of the restaurant and carry-out. And I do what I always do to pass the time - I make up their stories.
The older couple just leaving got there just in time for the early-bird special. They'll go home, watch a little TV, then fall asleep during the news.
The man walking out carrying the little boy told his wife he'd go start the car since junior was getting antsy. She brings up the rear holding the hand of a squirmy princess dressed all in pink while lugging a baby carrier. An exhausting attempt at "family night" after a long work week and probably a double-long stay-at-home-mom week.
Two women, a man and a teenager enter the carry-out. The man and woman are married; the teenager is their son. The other woman is the sister, who is going through a divorce. "Come to dinner with us - we'll just get carry-out then go home and talk over a glass of wine."
I do this in restaurants, too. Sometimes my silence may be looked on by my companion as boredom. Not so. I'm merely surveying the room and getting the "stories" of all the other patrons. The young woman playing with her hair across from the guy fumbling with his fork? First date. The couple eating in silence while staring blankly into space? Their kids are teenagers and off doing their own thing tonight. They've been parenting for so long they don't even know each other anymore. And the older woman who automatically picks the onions off her husband's salad while he systematically passes her the Parmesan cheese? Soulmates.
I'm always wondering what's going on in the lives of these people. It's easy to see a family laughing and joking and be envious that they're just the "perfect family". I sometimes can't look away from the couple who stare adoringly at each other and can't go more than a couple of minutes without touching. "They must just have the best relationship ever," I think. The mom and daughter who I can hear in the dressing room comparing new outfits. "How great that they're friends."
Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one that does this, and if I'm not, then what do people think is my story when they see me? There could be a different chapter every day. Sometimes, they'll see a kooky mom chasing her kids through the Shoppes at Grand Prairie or trying to shoot basketballs at Dick's Sporting Goods even though they put that plexiglass shield over the basket. Sometimes they'll see an exasperated mom making one boy walk five paces ahead of the cart while the other begrudgingly holds her hand because they couldn't stop wresting and knocked over a display of cereal. Tonight, they saw a lonely single mom who didn't want to be at home tonight, and wished her family was whole.
I try to keep things in perspective when I'm people watching, and not get too caught up in my story of them, knowing full well there's more to it than meets the eye. But sometimes, it's hard to picture the reality that everyone goes through when they seem so "normal" on the outside. It matters not, I guess. I like to watch people, and I like to make up stories. So stick me in a drive-thru anytime - you just may not want to cross my line of sight lest your story be written... by me.