Story last updated at 3/11/2009 - 10:57 am
About a year ago, a group of my crafter friends had a First Friday opening. A fellow non-crafter and I were standing around in support when we realized we could be much more productive in our standing around if we moved to the window. Just like that, we became human statues. We struck poses with various crafts in hand, holding very still in our positions for several minutes, then striking different poses. This continued for two hours. I loved every minute, especially when passersby stopped to watch, or tried in vain to make us laugh.
When I was invited to spend another First Friday in a storefront window, I jumped at the opportunity.
Hearthside Books had a "Eat. Sleep. Read" event this last First Friday. Readers signed up for 15-minute slots to read in the storefront window. It was much easier than my previous window gig. I got to pick the book (I chose one of my favorites, "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino) and there were no rules about sitting perfectly still. They even fed me chocolate.
Anyone who has walked by the Capital City Weekly office on the corner of 2nd and Franklin Street knows that this isn't very different than what I do at work every day: I go about the business of writing, editing and designing pages in full view of anyone who passes by.
But for the most part, people don't stop and stare - not too often, anyway. Friends tap and wave, but most people observe the implicit "no don't disturb" sign.
We give off "do not disturb" signs all the time, I think - and especially when we're reading. Nothing says "do not disturb" like reading a book - think about sitting on an airplane or a bus when you don't feel up to conversation with your seatmate.
Events like "Eat. Sleep. Read" appeal to me because they take what is normally a solitary, private activity and put it in the public eye. It's not sensational. It might not even be that interesting.
But it gives us permission to watch each other, something I think we really like to do.
I saw Gov. Sarah Palin in the Nugget Mall last Monday. She looked tired, as one might reasonably expect a governor to be at 6 p.m. during legislative session, with young children in tow. I didn't have any particular reason to approach her, so I didn't - but I couldn't help sneaking a glance her way periodically to see what she was up to. Surprisingly, nobody else approached her either, except for someone from the "Read Across America" event taking place at the time.
I know other people saw her - it's hard not to see someone as recognizable as our governor. But of the dozens of people walking through the mall that evening - many of whom probably stood in line to shake her hand during her holiday open house in December and would be excited to do so again - I didn't see anyone give any indication that there was anyone worth watching around.
Well, you might say, maybe everyone in the mall at that time happened to not be Palin fans. It's possible. But I think everyone just read an implicit "do not disturb" sign and walked on, maybe sneaking a furtive glance or two.
I think it's easy to tell when someone on display in a storefront window and when someone is just browsing, or when someone is smiling for the camera at a literacy event and when someone is just looking for a book to read in the privacy of their own home.
Sure, we like to watch other people, especially if they are celebrities or doing something interesting. But it's pretty rare for someone to be standing up for you to watch, whether giving a speech or reading in a window.
And if you feel like you're being watched all the time - whether because you're famous or because you happen to work in front of a big window on a downtown street - it can be nice to feel like you have some control, even for just 15 minutes, over what people are watching.