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TEN BEST PLACES TO PEOPLE WATCH

by Eric Ginsburg

HOUSE PARTY

The law of house parties states that someone must knock something over or break something, that someone must raid the host’s refrigerator and that someone must relieve themselves in the bushes. The best house parties involve costumes and terrible group sing-a-longs, though I’ve seen some with trampolines, water sports and live music.

CONCERT

I tried to bet on the number of Feist concertgoers who would show up in flannel but nobody would take me up on it.

Before or after the lights dim, get a good look at the demographics of the crowd. Once the show is underway, it’s comical to watch the people who try and restrain themselves from signing along or dancing, instead mouthing the words, gently rocking or tapping the rhythm. Alternatively, have you ever seen the pit at a hardcore show?

SPORTS

Have you ever looked around the stands at a Dash or Grasshoppers game? Checked out the parents lined up in folding chairs along the side of their kids’ soccer game, or the people in the stands at a roller-derby bout? If you’re lucky, you caught my friends and me at the final game for an adult kickball league, cheering wildly and doing the wave. The players may have been more entertained watching us than we were by watching them.

COURTHOUSE

People watching is also about learning, and there is a lot to see as the massive line of people waits outside the courthouse on Monday mornings, or in court with the self important lawyers. The media circus at the Edwards’ trial is arguably less depressing than checking out the regular courthouse crew, and I swear I sat next to Regis Philbin’s voice twin while waiting for a verdict.

GROCERY STORE

Look into people’s carts. Take notice of the late-night shoppers. Most people come in alone, but pay attention to the couples, families and especially groups of friends. Chances are some kid is begging for something to no avail, friends are arguing about beer or chip varieties and relationship tensions are playing out in embarrassingly public ways. Also try the farmers’ market.

CLUB/BAR

The exact location depends on what you’re looking for, but the Triad offers quite an array of nightlife options — biker bars, so-called “cougar clubs,” blacked-out karaoke stars, foam parties, mechanical bulls and hilariously poor flirting attempts and pick-up lines. Someone’s always trying to go home with the bartender, and the politics of dancing at clubs is probably enough to fill a dissertation.

FUNDRAISER

Unlike the clubs and bars, interactions at fundraisers are more likely to be about status than mating. More interesting than people’s projected image of success or philanthropy is observing how people interact with the free food that is often provided or how they treat catering staff. While every fundraiser is different, each one is bound to draw an interesting cast of characters, unless it’s a bust.

A PARK

Center City Park frequently has performances, both intentional and otherwise — I’ve seen an adult exercise classes, concerts and summer movie nights. Bur-Mil Park’s driving range and any park on the Fourth of July are also worthwhile.

AIRPORT

For some reason airports have a reputation for being people-watching meccas, but I’m usually too stressed and tired to be entertained. Greensboro’s tiny airport doesn’t offer much, but I did get a few laughs out of the security line at LAX recently and couldn’t believe the large Miller Lite logo someone had on their bicep at Dallas/Fort Worth International.

CITY COUNCIL

Superhero costumes, a slam poetry performance and “the Troublemaker” Ben Holder being thrown out while declaring war — who knew Greensboro city council could be so entertaining? There’s always some good people-watching material, be it community shows of force for or against an item or the joking yet serious interactions between Mayor Robbie Perkins and meeting regular George Hartzman.

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