Have you ever sat on a bus, or in an airport waiting room or a restaurant and looked around at the other people and wondered what they were thinking? Everyone seems to be staring off into middle space, and I sometimes wonder what secret lives are going on behind their vacant stares. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to listen in? We all have rich interior lives, and perhaps only a small percentage of what we are actually thinking makes it to the outside world. In that way, we never really know each other. We are our own best-kept secrets.
We have all experienced the elevator syndrome. Elevators are small, confined spaces, holding sometimes 15 people or more, everyone intruding on each other's personal space. Conversation is kept at a minimum because the enclosed space gives a feeling of personal intimacy that makes us feel uncomfortable. We don't wish to talk to the stranger who is standing three inches away. So instead, we look at the floor numbers, hoping the elevator will get to our destination quickly. What are we thinking about, and what is the stranger next to us thinking about? Perhaps they're remembering a book they read the night before, or wondering if they remembered to turn the stove off before they left home. Or maybe they're late for work, and they're wishing they could tell the boss to take the job and ...
One of my favorite things to do is to sit and have a coffee somewhere, and try to guess what folks are thinking. Sometimes I will see a couple having a conversation, and I will imagine what they are saying. There was a wonderful scene in "Date Night" where Steve Carrell and Tina Fey were having dinner together. They were choosing random couples in the restaurant and inventing what their conversations might be. I laughed because I didn't realize other folks did that too.
Usually the secret lives of other people are much more interesting than their exterior lives. I work with a woman who is the epitome of grace, good manners, refined deportment ... and yet quite frequently she comes out with some particularly sarcastic and offensive comments that completely bushwhack the people they're directed at. I hear the comments, and I wonder who is the real person living behind the pleasant facade this woman shows the world. What is the secret life going on inside that causes her to be this way, and which of these personalities is the real person? We never really know, do we?
Do you have a secret life?