The other day somebody told me a story that is not really surprising… I mean it’s kind of mundane, the sort of thing that happens to us all the time, but it somehow got my goat. This person, he goes for a walk on the grounds of a health club where he also swims and does a bit of muscle training. He has a routine. He walks first, then hits the gym, and then he goes for a swim. So, one day last week, he went for a walk (as usual), but instead of doing his regular 45-minute stretch, he did a half-an-hour one (I think he had a work meeting coming up so he rejigged his schedule). When he entered the gym, a part of which overlooks the walking track, two of the trainers pounced on him. “Sir, how come you walked less than you normally do?” they asked. “We noticed you only did a 30-minute walk whereas till yesterday you were walking for 45 minutes.”
“What did you tell them?” I wanted to know.
Apparently, he went on some long-winded explanation as to why he walked 15 minutes lesser than usual.
“But how’s it their business? I mean, why are they even noticing what you do? They are keeping tabs on how much time you spend on your walks, and then comparing timelines, isn’t that weird?”
“I guess,” he shrugged his broad shoulders (beefed up by all that muscle training). “But that’s what people are like. They notice.”
And then I started getting irritated with people who notice. My cleaner noticed last week that I had reorganised my seating arrangement — and when I say noticed, I automatically mean he had to pose a question. “You’ve turned the sofa the other way.”
“Yes,” I said. “So?”
“Nothing, I noticed.”
The other day, a friend remarked somebody she knows was wearing the same shirt on back-to-back days. “So?” I asked.
“No, nothing, I happened to notice…”
How’s that a conversation starter, I wondered.
“I notice you are getting food from home,” a colleague noted.
“I am,” I said (with apologies to Neil Diamond). “And?”
“No, nothing, I just noticed…”
Why are we always noticing what others do? I guess it’s okay to observe if there is something to learn. Or if I am a detective like Holmes or Poirot, it helps if my ‘noticing’ skills are heightened, I may be able to crack a case sooner. I obviously can’t stop people from noticing per se, however much I wish they’d mind their own business — but making a statement based on the ‘notice’ is a bit creepy. Very nosy parkerish.
Soon after my friend told me about his ‘noticeable’ walking spree, and my annoyance with ‘noticing’ people having scaled new heights, I met an acquaintance. It was a work meeting, but there had to be pleasantries first.
She: “Have you lost weight?”
Me: “Why do you ask?”
She: “The last time we met, I noticed your arms had become chubby, but today I notice they are thinner… So… have you been working out? And are you on a diet? I noticed you used sweetener in your coffee, not sugar…”
My house in the wintry fantasy republic, made of potato MDF and covered in perfumed mash potato veneer, would be home to a canvas print of Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters
...that spooked an American family who moved to the suburbs from the city — into their ‘dream home’