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Doug Routt: People watching is a great hobby

I have reached the age where I periodically will drive my wife of many years to the grocery store and wait outside while she shops. This is a condition caused by the fact that neither of us has much to do, and if I can be of some service then I have purpose or relevancy.

This situation also gives me a great deal of time to people watch. It is really an interesting avocation and more folks should avail themselves of the opportunity. But it is one I feel is enjoyed mostly by the old and very young.

I have deduced that slender people are usually more attractive than fat folks, and that younger people are generally prettier than old people. That salient fact means that if observers happen to be watching me, I already have two strikes against me.

But I became aware of an interesting phenomenon and that is that happy people with a smile or chuckle on their face improve their appearance exponentially. An old fat guy with a grin on his face and a lilt in his step really looks good. An older woman who looks like she has a secret joke or is just enjoying her outing is far prettier than the head-down, scowling middle-ager who is bent on a mission with no time for observation or enjoyment.

The pretty young coed who has her head canted downward observing her omnipresent cellphone is so distracted from her surroundings that I wonder if she might walk into a lamp pole. I did just see a statistic that pedestrian accidents have increased 10 percent this year. She is a shadow of what she could be if she picked up her head and smiled or acknowledged her surroundings.

I got a big kick out of an older couple exiting the store who were walking hand in hand. They both had big smiles as they switched the canes from their inner hands to their outer hands so they could grasp each other’s respective hand.

Guys with droopy drawers and baggy clothes, plus a knit hat and ear buds, obviously can’t be smiling or their entire image would be destroyed.

But the teen who is gathering all the shopping carts and offers to take someone’s cart to the reception area with a big smile is far more appealing to observe.

Everyone seems distracted and in a hurry. I know grocery shopping will likely never be considered an enjoyable hobby, but it can still be somewhat entertaining. The mothers with little kids pushing the racing car shopping carts seem like they are having a good time, and the kids are definitely enjoying themselves.

I get upset when I see seemingly non-handicapped people pull into the reserved parking places and walk briskly away to the store. But that isn’t a fair observation on my part, because they could have unseen problems of which I am unaware.

I do, however, know that the guy who parked in the space reserved for pregnant mothers was definitely a fraud, but chasing him down was worth more energy than I was willing to expend.

Lots of people don’t return their shopping carts to the respective corrals. This inhibits parking, but it also allows a new shopper an opportunity to get a cart without going all the way to the corral. So it’s not all bad, just lazy.

The least happy group seems to be the bottle returners, hoisting huge bags of empties and anticipating gooey hands. That’s definitely not enjoyable. But if you’ve gotta do it, do it with a smile.