No, it’s not creepy to just sit and watch people. We all do it all of the time, whether or not we want to admit it. I’m admitting it. I love people watching in Chattanooga. You guys are just so interesting with your dogs, babies and lovers. I really enjoy trying to figure out the social dynamics of your group of friends while you unknowingly walk past. Is that your grandfather, or are you into older men, sir? Why would a girl that small have a dog that large? Why is one of your kids much older than the rest of your kids? Why is one of them Asian? Do you think those pants are appropriate for someone your size? If you spend any time at all in these locations, I have no doubt you’ll find the answers. Here are Chattanooga’s best people watching perches. Don’t blow my cover.
Ice Cream Show
More than “17,000 flavors” and a cafe-style outdoor porch at one of Chattanooga’s busiest pedestrian intersections—this is the perfect place to observe both tourists and locals go about their days. I like to purchase an enormous ice cream cone and watch as the collective masses walk across the Walnut Street Bridge and into the Art District. If the weather is nice, you’ll see everything from engagement photos being taken to men riding unicycles. Usually, somebody will try to entice a few dollars from passersby while strumming a broken guitar. The dogs are everywhere and say possibly more about their owners than the owners would like. The best part about this spot is the view of all of the awkward teenage behavior that we remember from our own childhoods.
Pickle Barrel porch
For a completely opposite experience than the Ice Cream Show, venture on up to the porch at the Pickle Barrel on Market Street. Although the behavior and streams of people are fairly predictable near the bridge, you literally can’t imagine what you’ll witness near the Pickle Barrel in just the span of an hour. The Pickle Barrel is located right next to Patten Towers, which is essentially a large Section 8 housing complex. Sadly, most of the residents (and I don’t think I’m overgeneralizing too much here) suffer from some sort of mental illness. This means that you have a bird’s eye view of some incredibly strange behavior and possibly a screaming argument, all while you eat a plate of fried pickles. I’ve seen people talking to themselves, fighting with broken beer bottles and a man playing dominoes with what I can only assume was an imaginary friend. Grab a beer on a hot summer night, and pull up a chair to Crazyville.
Stone Cup balcony
This is where people go to study and pretend to study, but really to mingle with the hip North Shore crowd. In just an hour at the Stone Cup, you can witness college kids studying, Bible studies in progress, and a whole slew of people who don’t have jobs and just need a place to hang out. What is it about coffee shops that make you think it’s OK to have loud cellphone conversations? I can hear every word. Every word. It’s amazing to me that people can actually read or study in that type of environment. I need complete silence, and my only light source can be a flickering exposed bulb on the end of a long wire. Anyway, the Stone Cup offers excellent people watching opportunities and has terrible public restrooms.
Upstairs at Greenlife Grocery
I always feel better about myself if I eat at Greenlife Grocery (Whole Foods, whatever), with all that yummy nutrition sinking down in my belly. But good eats aside, I like to eat at Greenlife as much for the people as I do the food. The people who grocery shop here are incredibly funny sometimes. Like the girl who shopped for soap for my entire lunch hour, calmly smelling every bar and then making her selection of a completely unscented version. The women in their yoga pants are almost better than any pornography I could download. However, guys in yoga pants completely cancel out any arousing feelings that might have popped up (so sorry, Nooga.com). My favorite way to watch people at Greenlife, though, is to learn about them through their food. Because contrary to popular belief, it’s really easy to eat an incredibly unhealthy meal if you don’t stick to the basics. I see very large people consuming very large salads just covered in thick dressing. That lemon/lime carbonated sweet juice thing you’re drinking may be organic, but it has at least the same amount of calories as a regular soda, probably more. Just watch yourselves, folks. I’m watching, and I don’t like what I see.
Walmart (Lookout Valley)
Whatever it is that makes the Lookout Valley Walmart such a mecca for crazy people to watch, I hope it never changes for as long as I live here. This place is so close to the city and yet so far removed at the same time. Perhaps it’s the close proximity to several rural areas, but I’m almost sure that I can recognize People from Walmart on a subsequent return trip to Walmart. This is also one of easiest places to people watch because all you have to do is walk around. I’ve witnessed mobility scooter accidents, screaming people at the pharmacy and a morbidly obese woman buying a cart full of two items: milk and pork. What do you cook with milk and pork? The place is just surreal on a level that makes me question whether or not my life is a joke. A little something extra: Count the number of parked cars in the lot that have people sleeping in them during the middle of the day. It’s more than two. It’s always more than two.