Do you ever make up stories about random people you encounter?
I most commonly do so when I’m in traffic. As a driver speeds by me, weaving in and out of traffic, I may imagine him as a secret agent in a race to diffuse a critical situation, or maybe it’s someone in a rush to get to the hospital to say their final goodbyes to a loved one before it is too late. The stories are both fun and a good way to keep my blood-pressure down.
My favorite movie, Love Actually, states that love is all around; I’d add that story is all around too. This has especially been true for me in recent weeks, where I’ve spent a fair amount of time in airports, on planes, in waiting rooms, and in crowds.
During a recent flight delay, for example, I whiled array the time spinning mental tales about the shaven, beringed, tattooed woman in front of me (grown up on the streets in a rough-and-tumble gang, now running a charitable foundation for at-risk youth); the sulky teenager glued to her cell phone who periodically glared in her parents’ direction (she is being sent off to boarding school number five,after having just been chucked out of number four for running an illegal but very profitable term paper scheme); and the down-on-his luck looking man in an ill-fitting suit with a battered briefcase (a high-powered stock trader who got cocky in his success, bet all on a risk deal, and lost everything; now working as a low-level salesman for a refuse-can company).
Sometimes the people I encounter and the stories they inspire evolve into characters in my writing or at least inspire other ideas, but more often than not they are just an entertaining diversion.
So how about you? Is the world around you populated with people and stories of your own devising, or is it just me?