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January 23, 2008

Human Facades


On mornings when I am very tired, I often play a game on the first leg of my commute. The bus ride is just slow long enough for me to study faces of the people who surround me and so, as an exercise in both memory and keeping my eyes open, I play the Human Facade game.

When I think of the term “landscape” most of the time just the physical city comes to mind, which really accurate. People make up a large portion of our daily landscape and it is interesting to study how this portion of the environment changes or remains the same over time. Often, it's a weird way to look at things.

We mostly notice people that we actually know or are connected with in some way. In this case, I’ve been watching the people that I see almost every day yet have no idea who they are. As far as I know, we share one thing in common- we all get on the 8:45 bus in the morning. Sometimes people disappear for a while- maybe we have started leaving at different time or they went on vacation or were sick or bought a car. Then suddenly there they are again, a little older, with a different haircut, or once and a while, exactly the same as where we left off.

This morning I looked around and discovered two children who had crossed the bridge from toddler to little kid, two who had definitely hit the awkwardness of pre-teen puberty and one person who I have counted seeing almost every commute day for the past four years. It was kind of like paying attention to a street in your neighborhood that you hadn’t walked down in a while. Little details came into focus. Some facades had really changed. Others looked exactly the same.

I love my Human Facade game. It reminds me that people grow and change with a city, sometimes in very similar ways. I can forget that. Starting the morning noticing little things makes my long commute feel so much better. Maybe one day I will actually say hello to some of these people. Then again, probably not.

Posted by callalillie at January 23, 2008 3:11 AM | City Life


I used to play a similar version of that game when I was in undergrad. I went to a gigantic school (50,000, I think), and I would pass the same people, day after day, on my way to class. I started to recognize them and make up stories about them in my head. The only time I ever spoke to one of them was when I saw Girl Who Reads While Walking at a party and was so surprised I struck up a conversation with her. She turned out to be pretty cool.

Posted by: Ris at January 23, 2008 11:14 AM

love today's photo!

Posted by: lesterhead at January 23, 2008 1:07 PM

love that pic.

Posted by: yp at January 24, 2008 11:05 AM

This seems to work best on the bus, I have found. I have spent 5.5 years riding trains to work and 5 riding the bus and I saw way more of the same people on the buses I took than I ever do on the train. And that's even with my always getting on the last car and taking the 9:20 PATH train nearly every morning. Maybe 9:20 is not a time that most people get on the train, so most people going to work at that hour are just running late?

Posted by: craige at January 25, 2008 11:10 AM

just stumbled on your blog tonight and am excited to have a new blog to read!! i too play the facade game except i don't ride the bus so i play at the grocery store. its interesting to notice people in this way.

Posted by: cbh at January 27, 2008 7:36 PM

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