People Watching

The powers of skilled observation are at the very least very entertaining, if not powerful.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said that he based the character Sherlock Holmes on Dr Joseph Bell, or at least on his powers of deductive reasoning. And the use of the word, “Elementary”.

Dr Bell was a lecturer at the medical school of the University of Edinburgh in the 19th century and emphasised the importance of close observation in making a diagnosis. For us, it is a skill that should be honed to such an extent as to be obvious and to become habit.

Tedious introduction said, J. spent a fair bit of his time in commute watching others. Not just in a medical sense, though that was certainly done, but also in watching human interaction. People speak of “women’s intuition“, but it’s probably being a bit more observant. A quality that may be developed.

There were a cluster of girls (and one guy) about the age of 16. J. was, of course, tolerant enough not to irritated at their inability to move into the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) train carriage. At Orchard, the majority of them left, leaving the chap and one girl. Body language tells a lot. J. felt slightly sorry for the guy for trying so hard.

Waiting for the MRT train, J. saw a pair of young gentlemen who couldn’t have been more than 14 years old. The only thing is, one was of normal height (say, 156cm) and build while the other was at least a six-footer. He looked a bit dysmorphic (i.e. weird) though I wouldn’t want to take anything away from his looks. He had thin, narrow shoulders, long langly limbs, slightly wide hips and fairly sizable feet. Marfan’s syndrome? He had an oval face without a strong jaw or frontal bossing, so gigantism (being rare, as well) is probably out.

On the bus, J. ended up facing a couple a few seats away. Only, the male half of said couple was his secondary school (equivalent of high school) classmate. Apparently they’ve been together for close to six years. Both of them slept throughout the journey, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder. Ever so often, her head would dip down to his shoulder. Every now and then, he would rouse himself, glance out the window and resume sleeping. J. feels glad for them that after all these years their relationship is going strong.

Observation. Keeps one from going senile early, at least. Now… if only I could translate this skill to fantastic medical school grades.


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