This always makes me chuckle. Guys with shaved heads, muscle shirts, iphone to ear, licking an ice cream cone and walking to the bus stop. Imagine it for a second. There is no cool way to eat an ice cream. It's chuckle worthy.
What this means is that you are seeing people living. Not just people "at the store", or "at the mall," or "at the work place,"...but people in the middle of living their lives.
You see a lot. You hear a lot. You smell a lot. Some of it not so pleasant. Some of it not very pretty. All of it VERY human.
I once saw two men who had clearly just been fighting, drunk, make-up their fight for well over 30 minutes. Talking, hugging, and explaining. One of them was wearing nothing but boxer shorts.
You see many more people with physical and mental disabilities. People with facial or physical dis-figuration. People who have clearly lived very hard lives, care worn and tired. You see a lot of elderly people. A lot of elderly people. Everywhere.
If you visit here you aren't going to notice these things as more than just quirks. You see people rifling through trash cans or men drinking on a bench at 10:30am on a Sunday morning and you are a little shocked but in that "oh, look at Europe" kind of way. You see people who walk funny or look a little weather beaten and assume they must be poor. Or you simply don't see them at all because you're busy looking up at the pretty buildings or booking it to the recommended restaurant or your face is behind the camera. Because you're visiting, and that's what you came for. The fancy European stuff.
What happens when you live here is a bit different.
You start to notice all these people living, and then you notice the grungy stuff, and the not so pretty stuff. The broken stuff. Because now you live here and instead of noticing the pretty buildings, you start to notice the trash can rifling, and the drunken stumbling, and the graffiti. Except its not quirky, or other worldy...it's home.
And then it seems as if that's all there is to see. Because you start to really notice it. Because it stands out. It's not "normal." Because after a while, after taking your face away from the camera and looking around, you start to look for the normal. The moms with strollers and dads with kids on shoulders. The ladies out for a coffee together and friends sharing a soda. At first you can't see it. You can't see the normal because there is so much "other." So. much. OTHER. So much that is not clean and neat and fits into, well, into a neat and clean store or restaurant or place of business...where you're used to encountering other people.
It's not cleaned up ship shape for public viewing. It's not polished. It's not predictable.
There are so many reactions I have had to this reality. Sometimes it's disgust. Warranted disgust. For some things are not appropriate or tolerable anywhere. Sometimes it's fatigue. Just tiring of trying to navigate the good, the bad, and the ugly, take in the good, pray for the bad, and hope the ugly goes out of style. But more often than that I have found myself just looking on (or away) with curiosity. It's not every day that you see a man riding a bike with nothing on but mesh underwear. Very intriguing.
Martin says that it's easy to not notice the normal, because when surrounded by so many people on a daily basis, every time you step out of the house, the not normal stands out. In a crowd of people you aren't going to notice all the regular people doing regular things like sitting and looking out the window on the tram, you're going to notice the girl who's brushing her teeth and texting at the same time (true story) standing directly in front of you.
No, you have to look for it. You have to make an effort to notice it, instead of the other. To refocus your eyes...