Friday, June 15, 2012

People Watching from my Lunch Window at Work

My favorite thing to do during work is spend time looking out a window. I know, strange. Let me explain.

I've noticed that florescent lighting has a negative effect on me. It's not like I immediately react to it by feeling extremely ill. But I do feel overanxious, or stressed, or hyperactive. When I was a teacher, my classroom was lit entirely by florescent lighting, aside from one small window in the corner. I enjoyed nothing more than turning out the lights in the room before or after school to grade papers by the window with a lamp on for extra softer light. It calmed me. I felt more productive. Because I noticed such a change in myself, I choose one year to turn off a row of florescent lights and bring in extra lamps for lighting for my students. I have no conclusive evidence they were more engaged or that their learning was enhanced. In fact, most days there was no detectable difference between florescent lighting and dim lamps. Someone should study that though.

I have read before (and I wish that I could remember where so I could cite the original piece) that natural outdoor lighting is good for people. I hope I'm not making this up, but I think it stated that those who work with a window in their office, or who make a point to look outside the window are happier and more productive (or something to that effect). Again, I'm not going to go any further without being able to back any of this up. To add some credibility to what I'm saying, here is a website I like that speaks to the importance of natural light for people: Beat the Wintertime Blues with Natural Light.

The point is, although I'm currently not teaching, I still work in a place with florescent lighting. I hate it. Additionally, my office is in the corner with no windows, which I equally despise. So when I have a particularly hectic day, I eat my lunch in a room at work with windows. I turn off the lights, sit at a table that faces the window and eat my lunch. I have a spectacular view of the busy street and intersection, along with the parking lot of the retail store where I work.

Gazing out the window not only rejuvenates me, it also provides an opportunity for great people watching. I must admit, people watching is one of my most favorite pass-times. It allows me to quietly let go and observe the ordinary moments of others' days: near collisions about to happen before either driver notices a potential for danger, a rushed mother balancing her recently purchased items and her three children, the elderly person who struggles to put one foot before the other, the casual person making a short pit-stop in work-out clothing, or the inquisitive child who takes off running across the parking lot with no sense of fear or imminent danger.

Today I had a late 4:00 lunch, a time when a shift-change takes place at our store. One after another, people, alike in their dress-code, make the trek in from employee parking at the far end of the lot. As I watched each person head toward the building, I realized I hired almost all of them. I had some part in their work, their life that day, their employment. I shaped their training, which in turn, influences how well they do their job. I stopped eating and smiled to myself. I was a little proud in that moment, excited for what each person's shift might bring that day. I sent positive thoughts their way, hoping that they would actually reach them.

Soon my lunch was no longer in front of me. I wanted to stay at the window, yet somehow managed the motivation to gather up the empty reusable containers and finish the rest of my day.


  1. Todd, I know exactly what you mean about lighting. And though I also have no conclusive evidence to support this, I agree wholeheartedly with your claim about how it is good for people. When I moved from teaching to an office job I did everything I could to maximize the amount of natural light, and now when I go to a coworker's office with only a small window or, worse, no windows at all, I feel stifled and even sleepy. You're on to something here, man...

  2. Hi Todd! Just checking in on your blog. I admire your productivity! I am in awe of your blogginess and how eloquently you are hogging up the blogosphere (in the best possible Sidewalk Hog way, of course). Have you seen the scene in Joe vs. the Volcano where Tom Hanks' character talks about fluorescent lights? An overlooked classic. Hope you are all staying cool in this horrible heat!