People Watching at the Toronto Eaton Center

People watching is fun if you just sit somewhere and do it.

The Eaton Centre is a strange mall, because it doesn’t have its own specific demographic like many of the smaller, less famous malls. Here you will find all the necessary information. It contains everyone from everywhere.  It’s crowds are made up of tourists and locals; high end and low end, shopping, walking or meeting, or just transit goers up for a peek between subway and streetcar.
It is in Toronto’s social and tourist centre, and one of the only malls in Canada allowed to be open on holidays. As I observe from a bench in one end of the mall, I see mostly couplings –social or romantic.  Few are alone like me, unless they’re waiting to couple, or oddly talking to themselves.  Few stay stationary as long as I have. I’ve seen them all come and go.

The single ones, on the phone making plans to no longer be single as soon as possible.  Despite the size and location, it seems everyone here has a purpose or goal. To shop visually or with with intent to buy, or to be somewhere else. Only I seem to be here for the experience of being here.

I have rested near the open area in front of what once was Eatons, on chairs I suspect are intentionally designed not comfortable enough to stay for long. I see people mostly coming in, or exiting the mall. Few are indecisive. They have a clear direction.

It is a Friday, past 8pm so there are 2 more hours of mall openness to make use of before doing whatever else they’re downtown for. Nobody seems dressed for nightlife yet… Perhaps they’re shopping for it, or just stalling for time.

As am I.

There is a scientific principle I can’t think of the name of just now, but essentially it claims the act of observation changes reality.  Now that I have been watching, I see things differently.  I notice my first observations may not be correct. The class of people is certainly more specifically middle/upper, and there are more singles than I first commented.

I notice one man leaving with 12 rolls of toilet paper under his arm.  I am surprised this mall is considered by some as the place to go when you need toilet paper. To some, this is their convenience store on the way home.  To me, I would never think; I need toilet paper… lets go to the Eatons Centre.  I briefly ponder what stores here even sell TP but i remember there is a Shoppers Drug Mart somewhere in the centre and realize its not that odd after all.  People either go out to buy TP when they need it, or they buy a big 12 roll pack when they’re shopping for something else.  For all I know, this guy has a Dristan in his pocket and he remembered he’s been using newspaper at home since Tuesday.  Shoppers Drug Mart sells essentials, so to those who live near, or use this transit hub, it is a logical stop.

I actually can’t imagine where else down here I would get it without a longer walk.

I have always been a car owner, and even when I lived on the subway line, I have always shopped by car. I don’t think like a downtown transit user. That’s why I’m here learning, observing, writing.  I understand a whole world exists where people who don’t drive must walk to buy things.  This is where downtowners shop.

There are many such worlds I can not fully imagine. When people watching, it is easy to stereotype and make assumptions, but when you actually try to understand random strangers, you quickly realize you can’t hope to. Our earth is full, and we only ever interact with a fraction. Those that differ enough from our norm are usually just casual acquaintances. We may know the hot dog vendors name, but we know nothing about his life.

For the most part, that’s how we like it.

When i focus on a stranger here, I am aware their universe is as full as my own, but the two may never meet. This is as true of foreign cultures as it is of people who look like me.

I have never met… or at least known, an assembly line worker, a taxi driver, or a brain surgeon.  That could be one right there, buying his toilet paper.



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