Vail Valley: People-watching goes both ways |

Vail Valley: People-watching goes both ways

As a frequent traveler I spend lots of time in airports, hotel lobbies, restaurants, and meandering the sidewalks of our great nation. That gives me a great chance to people watch. It always fascinates me as I wonder and imagine what is happening in the lives of those who pass by.

This has been a pastime of mine for many years and long ago I decided it was much more fun and enjoyable if I stopped passing judgment and just imagined their life stories and journeys.

One of my favorite sights is a happy and joyous older couple – a couple well into their 60s, 70s, or 80s – who are still holding hands and smiling lovingly at one another. Did they meet during wartime, were they high school sweethearts? How have they overcome their personal challenges and everything else the world has thrown their way? The depression and recession years, the times when our country was at war, and yet here they sit, next to me in seat 10D, holding each other closely in a display of true love. It’s awesome and I want to know how they got there.

Watching children demonstrate complete innocence as they jump into puddles, much to the dismay of the nearest parent or victim of the splash, is always fun. Watching how each responds or reacts to the situation is interesting for me, yet totally meaningless to the child, who’s eagerly searching for the next puddle. The innocent joy and daring fearlessness is something I feel I have long forgotten. I love to be inspired once again by their youthful spirits.

My least favorite times when people watching come when I see or hear an argument, watch as someone struggles silently alone, and acts of indifference. Again, avoiding judgment but intrigued by how the fight could have possibly escalated to the point of public display, sympathetic to the plight of the individual sitting quietly alone but obviously in pain, and bewildered by the acts of indifference and how some people can’t or won’t rise to the occasion to help when and where they can.

But you know people watching does go both ways, don’t you? The eyes and cameras and recorders of life are on us, too. How do we act and behave in public? Is our character and integrity strong enough and solid enough to ensure that when others are keeping a watchful eye on us that our actions are what we truly believe them to be when we look at the image of ourselves in our own mirrors of life? This is not to say that we act one way in private and another way in public, it is a simple yet powerful reminder that we simply cannot be duplicitous to ourselves or the public in who and what we are.

Your e-mails are tremendous and I just know that many of you will respond to this column. I would love to hear your thoughts on people watching at and together, as we watch, let’s make it a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker, and CEO of He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

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