By Alysha Radia
I’m sitting on the tube on the way home. And instead of burying myself in my phone or having a tube nap as I usually do out of boredom exhaustion (I tell myself its ‘essential time to clear my mind’) for once, I am just going to observe.
Just before heading home, I was scrolling through a Reddit article in the studio entitled ‘Travelers of Reddit, what place DID live up to the hype?’. I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised at how many people cited London as the place that met their high expectations. People gave reasons ranging from the free galleries to the architecture. However, more often than not, people raved about the vibe of the city, its diversity and its liveliness, which whilst relentless, never felt overwhelming. I’m sure every Londoner has felt this way, as must everyone in their hometown, no matter how extraordinary, but you become desensitised to its extremes and take for granted what it gives to you.
We conducted a recent class in Street Wisdom, which truly forced me to see the city with fresh eyes, with the eyes of a tourist, or better, a documentary maker, with the intention of peeling back the many layers of the environment to find deeper meaning and unique insights. Andy Maslen whom we interviewed today, and who jokingly classed himself as ‘the spiritual descendent of Drayton Bird’, recounted his bus journey to Brixton, during which he was sat near a group of South London youths who were yakking about The Kardashians. As cheesy as it sounds, his eyes truly lit up as he was telling us of his mundane and brief encounter, a true example of a man that is more often than not in the role of the ‘playful child’. I marvelled not only at how someone so established and presumably well-off (I’m near broke and still take Ubers far too much than I can afford) was still taking the bus, and after all these years in the business still had a voracious appetite to observe and learn wherever possible. He verified that Drayton Bird is much the same, at the age of eighty-something, and still looks at the world with a child-like curiosity, and with endless amusement.
I think I used to be noisier. In fact, I used to be nosy as fuck. I can remember a time when I became unwittingly so engrossed in a conversation between two gossiping teenagers about the love life of a friend was happening across the tube carriage from me, that I was sassily snapped at to ‘mind my own business’. Whilst I don’t advocate creepily staring down random people to the point of discomfort on public transport, I remember it being an absolutely thrilling conversation, (so definitely worth the momentary humiliation) and a far better use of my time than trying to beat my high score on Temple Run. I have no idea if that overheard conversation contributed to the fabric of my unconscious in any meaningful way, but id hazards a guess that it did more than virtually running through ruins.
Being an observer and not a scroller puts you at more of an advantage in the business of insights and joining the dots than it did before. As more and more people are Black Mirrored by their mobile devices, those who aren’t being granted the privilege of the real world laying itself bare in front of you. Naked and unadulterated. It’s an easy and free way to get ahead of the game. After all, even if, for example, we are put on an online based brief, what’s online is merely an augmented and distilled version of problems and behaviours present in the real world.
I swear I used to have a story about a strange conversation or unconventional person ‘spotted’ on the underground on a weekly basis, but these have dried up, either because my curiosity in the mundane has been stamped out by early mornings and deadlines. But it takes no energy at all to look, and if anything it’s invigorating and energising. Avoiding doing so is nothing but a manifestation of the strain that it takes me to focus my attention, which is a trait of my ADD and which can upsettingly be misinterpreted as laziness. Yet another one of my shortcomings after having no sense of time and being incurably disorganised. I’m trying to clear up my act as best as I can, and starting and ending my day with a speckle of dots seems a good place to start.