By MARY TOBIA

tneditor@tnonline.com [1]

I am a people watcher.

For me it is relaxing, very entertaining and a great way to pass time if I am in an airport, a bus station or the malls.

I like to just sit back with a cup of coffee and let my imagination run wild.

The people I see can be rich or poor, can be kings and queens, movie stars or just regular folk, in my mind.

I love to look at the styles of the younger generation.

I like looking at mothers and fathers with children and let my mind wonder back to those days when that was my husband and I.

My favorite is watching elderly couples holding hands or guiding each other. I can only dream that I will be as lucky to have my partner by my side when I am their age.

I recently learned that people watching is an art and is considered a hobby. On the Internet I read a step-by-step process on how to people watch correctly.

They likened it to bird watching or observing wild animals in their own habit, but only different.

Do not use binoculars to people watch. Well, I do wholeheartedly agree. If you do this you may be behind bars and people in blue police uniforms will be watching you.

Wear comfortable clothing. No need to wear big heavy boots, drab earthy-toned or camouflage clothing. A pair of jeans, a tee shirt and sneakers will work just fine.

There are no special times to people-watch, unlike observing wildlife, which is usually active during very early mornings or late in the day. No special season either. People watching is there for your enjoyment all year long.

You do not have to be completely still and silent for hours and you don't have to worry about which direction the wind is blowing (unless you have chosen to sit near a bathroom).

Above all, it is not wise to use a blind as you people watch. Peeking around from behind some bushes, or the waterfall in the mall is just not good common sense. I believe it will get you to the same place the binoculars would.

The hobby of people watching is always free. You may decide to splurge on a cost of a coffee or a soda pop once in a while.

This summer we flew to Denver to visit our daughter and her family. We had a two-hour layover in Chicago. As usual, a busy airport is prime people watching territory for me. As our next flight out time got nearer, my husband learned it had been canceled due to mechanical failure. The next flight out would not be until five hours later. I think I actually saw steam rolling out of both of his ears as he reluctantly related the news to me but I could only think "Oh boy! Five more hours to people watch!"

My husband thinks he knows the reason why I love to people watch so much is because I grew up an only child on a big farm in the middle of South Dakota. He teases me that I didn't see enough human beings growing up, only livestock. He grew up in New York City, so what does he know?

I do not people watch at the beach. Seeing naked-clad bodies over the age of twelve will either depress me or scare me. Depress me, because I never did look that good in a bikini ever, and as for the older generation, such as myself, seeing all that skin is "way too much information, "as the younger generation would say.

I do not people watch with another person and talk about what we see. That would take all the fun out of the imagination part for me.

Now what do I do when I accidentally make eye contact with a person? I just smile, shrug my shoulders and look away.

Yes, as a self-proclaimed people watcher there are times I am happy just to sit back and watch the world pass me by.