Recently, I was assigned a project for class in which I had to spend an hour sitting in a public place observing people’s actions. I will admit that at first I was not looking forward to this particular assignment because I am not a fan of people watching, and was a little nervous about the risk of getting caught with a pen and paper in my hand, and the notes about the people around me written down. I decided to spend my hour (which actually turned out to be almost two hours) sitting in a waiting room of a pharmacy at one of the local hospitals in Fresno watching the people who were waiting to have their prescriptions filled. Being a mass communication and journalism major, I was mostly interested in seeing what types of magazines people were choosing to read, and if they appeared to be actually reading them, instead of just flipping through the pages.
During my time in the waiting room, I found that most people seemed more interested in reading magazines that focused on celebrities rather than those that focused on sports, politics, news, travel, or health issues. Those who were lucky enough to get the celebrity magazines (which were heavily outnumbered by the ones about sports and health) seemed to hold on to them longer. I also noticed that the people actually seemed to be reading them, and not just looking at the pictures, or using the magazine as a way to disguise their own people watching habits.
The waiting room that I was sitting in also gave people the option to look at The Fresno Bee, which is our local newspaper. This option, I noticed, was pretty much ignored by the entire waiting room. It remained unopened and unused by everyone in the waiting room during the entire two-hour time period that I was there. I do understand that newspapers are not nearly as interesting as some of the celebrity magazines, but I was still a little shocked to see this. People were obviously not interested in reading the news.
To most people, sitting in a waiting room is an extremely unpleasant experience. Wait times of 15 to 20 minutes can seem like an hour. I know very few people who leave a waiting room thinking that they had a good time, and looking forward to the next time they get to come. I will say, however, that I enjoyed my experience. It was interesting to observe people and their waiting room habits, and I would recommend to people that they do the same thing next time they are there to see what they notice.