I’ve never been one of those people whose mind is teeming with inspiration for stories, or characters begging for me to tell their tales. But recently I found a source of inspiration.
I started a new job in December, and instead of driving to and from work, I started catching the train and then walking up Queen Street, Auckland’s busiest street. I saw people, all sorts of people, from businessmen and women to homeless people, to tourists and others. I started making notes on some of the more memorable characters I saw.
It’s a fascinating exercise, and one I encourage you to undertake. I’ve noted below some of the characters that caught my attention.
The kid with the mullet and the 90s sunglasses. He looked like he had stepped out of the past, or perhaps from a retro party, or maybe he dressed this way all the time for some reason?
The exquisitely dressed Asian women coming out of the Prada and Dior stores. So immaculate. How long does it take to look like that, and how do they cope when someone smudges them or accidentally stains their clothes?
There are homeless people on Queen Street, as there are in any major city around the world. Some with signs, many with cups or receptacles for passersby to place coins in. Some shake their cups of coins as if to attract attention, which I suppose they’d want to do. There was one lady though, who instead of shaking a cup with coins in it, she rang a tiny bell. The kind of tiny bell that you’d imagine a rich woman with servants using to ring for someone to draw her a bath. Quite incongruous really.
A woman in a strapless top, who glistened as if she had just applied oil to herself, yet surprisingly she didn’t smell of coconuts. I didn’t know I expected her to smell of coconuts until she didn’t.
The woman whose backpack was exactly the same shade of teal as her t shirt. Do you suppose she had backpacks in every shade to match her shirts? Or perhaps she wore the same colour shirt each day?
The guy with the sinfully long eyelashes. How often do you suppose people comment on them, if I can notice them walking down the street?
The girl lighting a cigarette who made me realise how few people I see smoking these days.
The old woman in the hippie-era clothes who smelled so strongly of essential oils that I wondered if she’d just given or received a massage.
The heavily muscled dark-skinned guy who looked like he belonged on the set of a Vietnam War-era movie, leaning out of a helicopter, firing a gun over the jungle, to the soundtrack of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The man in the pale blue linen suit, which was probably perfectly ironed that morning and looked exceedingly fashionable, but which showed the creases of his day by late afternoon.
The girl with the pretty umbrella who hummed to herself as she walked to work in the rain.
The woman with the Louis Vuitton bag, wearing hideous brown and black harem pants. They say money can’t buy taste, but whose taste? Obviously it can buy hers. I’ll admit, she looked better than the guy in the brown and black leopard print sweatshirt that he’d teamed with leather pants and sequinned boots. But each to their own.
The smartly dressed professional man feeding crumbs to three small sparrows.
The young man in the fluorescent orange ‘hi vis’ jacket, carrying a hard hat, who gracefully leaped and jumped down the stairs at the train station as if auditioning for a part in a musical theatre production.
The girl with the perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect ‘feminine but appropriate for the office’ clothes and a massive purpling bruise on the inside of her left calf. What caused it?
The guy I’ve nicknamed ‘the Dark Stig’ in my head, who wears a full face blacked out helmet as he rides his motorised scooter across intersections, pedestrians parting for him as if he is royalty.
The guy who looked, from the back, like a very casually dressed (black jeans, black shirt peeking out from beneath a black hoodie, black sneakers with white soles) Grey Worm from Game of Throne, but who, from the side, didn’t look anything at all like a fictional warrior eunuch, more’s the pity for him.
The woman carrying an enormous fluffy cat down the street, only one leg and a tail visible. Was it real? I genuinely couldn’t tell from the back, but I thought I saw it move.
The Asian guy whose black face mask, coupled with the metallic accents on his black clothes, made him look like he’d stepped out of Mortal Kombat.
And the Asian man very carefully carrying the tiniest baby, but without any part of the baby touching his torso. Was it his baby? Why did he not want to cuddle it?
What characters do you see when you’re out and about? Have you ever incorporated any of them into a story, poem or blog post?