Art thou a voyeur?

Every Wednesday evening I take my daughter over to a small town near where we live for dance class. Her class lasts for an hour and the one way trip from the house to the dance studio is about 25 minutes so instead of going back home or sitting around and waiting with the other parents in the cramped little waiting room I usually go for a walk. It’s a college town with an interesting main street and a bit of history. I have a love of art and architecture and there are a few beautful homes and stores that were built in the 19th century that are always a pleasure to observe. In an hour I can cover about 4 and 1/2 miles, all the way from the residential section where the dance studio is located, up the hill along main street to the edge of the main campus and back in time to greet my daughter as all the little pairs of dance slipper shod feet come pouring out of their class to change into street shoes and bundle up in coats and mittens and scarves before slipping out to the cold night air.

I always look forward to this hour of the week. It provides blessed relief from that opressing feeling that ‘something must be done’ that seems to weigh on me. Having finally figured out that restoring a fieldstone farmhouse built 170 years ago will not be completed in the forseeable future without longterm sustained effort along with a considerable amount of cash, while balancing a stress inducing job that never seems to demand less than fifty hours a week, I know that I rarely have really free time. I want to be a father rather than just a handy man so parenthood takes mostly every minute and the house gets whatever’s left. Being able to steal an hour just for myself to do nothing is like a present.

They say an idle mind is always up to no good, don’t they? Well, it works for me. The no good part anyway. As late fall moves into my part of the world and the sun sets earlier and night falls around dinner time (supper to all you southern folk, but thats another thread) lights are turned on inside homes, illuminating a world that isn’t supposed to be viewed. But in my weekly walks, I occasionally find myself looking beyond the architectual details of a house and through an undraped window at the activity inside. I walk at a decent clip, so there it is nothing more than a glance at someones private life. Its never more than a person seated, watching television, or a figure standing with the phone pressed to the side of their head, or perhaps a student at a table, apparently studying. Ever seen any form of coupling? Not ever. Wouldn’t expect to either. In this part of the world there is precious little exhibitionism and only the occasional paganism. Still, I’m beginning to think my walks bring out a voyeuristic tendency.

Vous?

I find myself doing the same thing when on evening walks. Mostly I’m curious as to what the house looks like on the inside, and avert my gaze if there’s a person in the room. I’ve been known to say “hi” to cats in windows, though.

I have seen a couple having sex, but I was living on the 16th floor of a building right across from a university dorm, in the downtown core of a big city, and figured that anything I saw was my own fault for looking out the window.

I love overhearing conversations. Last year at college, my roommate had this beyond unhealthy relationships with a senior, and some nights when she’d assume I was asleep, she and her boy would come back to our room and they’d have a heart-to-heart talk. I always really liked listening to them, even though they only mentioned sex a few times, and they only mentioned me twice (both times were positive or indifferent), but I just loved hearing parts of their life. Especially my roommate. We weren’t that close, but before we left for school and met each other, she sent me this huge 5 page typed letter about her life–her intended major, her goals in life, her ex-boyfriend, her future children’s names, everything. But then once we moved in together, she stopped telling me stuff. I liked being caught up on her life.

I was never a peeping tom, but I did come across a few girls, in various stages of undress, as I would walk to my car or take the trash out (I lived in several different apartment complexes in college). And yes I did walk much slower when those opportunities arose.

But I have never had my voueristic tendencies satisfied like when I borrowed my fathers radio scanner! He used it to listen to the cops and stuff like that. I used it to check out the cell phone frequencies. You want a snippet of peoples lives, then this scanner is it! I heard everything. And I do mean everything! I’ve even heard a couple drug deals:

Caller 1: Yeah?
Caller 2: Hey it’s me? How much do you have?
Caller 1: Enough.
Caller 2: Let’s meet at the tracks at the usual time.

Typing it out, I guess it could be taken as a few different things, but I always favored the drug deal scenario. I would hear lovers loving, hating, or just informing their SO that they were on their way home and could s/he pick anything up.

I became so addicted to that scanner. Three hours would pass and I would be completely unaware. All I wanted was more juicy conversation. I was chasing the dragon and didn’t even know it! The weekends from 5pm-1am were the best.

When I go home for Christmas this year, maybe I’ll ask my dad if he still uses it. If he doesn’t, then I’ll never get anything done again!!! Actaully it’s been quite some time since I’ve “scanned”. I’m sure by now that frequencies have been changed and encryptions added. Oh well.

At my last place, I was on the 2nd floor and I could see the couple in the house behind me occasionally having sex in the kitchen. She was kind of cute, but it’s the “he” part that ever kept me from watching. Sorry, no thanks - a fat hairy ass doesn’t do it for me.

Where I live now is a suburban neighborhood, and I’m amazed at how many people leave their curtains or blinds open at night. I’ll take a walk at night and I can see right into many houses.

I’ll look as I walk, especially since they can’t see anything outside if their lights are on. I’m not so much interested in what they have, but sometimes I’d like to tell them to close their curtains. If I were a burglar, I’d know all the best houses to hit, and exactly what I would take. People should really be a little more careful and not advertise what they have.

Ah, uberDave, you’re nowhere near a voyeur! Sounds to me like you’re a very rare bird: a thoughtful, balanced person who deliberately (gratefully) steps out of his own ego and stresses to observe the human condition. The world has gotten too bland, impersonal and unseeing anyway.
BTW, thanks for one of the most evocative descriptions I’ve read in a month of Sundays.

You aren’t skulking around, sweatily prepared with binoculars in case “something good” crops up. There’s a lot to be said for confident open windows. You aren’t looking to pry, and those at-home folks behind the windows aren’t worried about “what if someone sees in!?”

I eavesdrop–overhear sounds better–at restaurants, etc. It’s great. People are their funniest, funkiest, honest best. (If it gets too personal I tune out, though sometimes reluctantly.) It doesn’t seem intrusive, maybe because they’re speaking so openly in public. Oddly enough, those overheard conversations convince me that most folks are nice. Wimpy word, but it suits. Some of the funkiest, truest insights I’ve overheard from strangers.

Veb

I have voyeuristic tendencies from time to time, but I don’t go out of my way to indulge them. Oddly enough, the only time I was an audience to sex (well, not counting my ex-roomie’s drunken escapades), I really didn’t want to be. In this particular case, I was awakened by loud, raunchy, “OH GOD! OH GOD!” caliber sex. Unfortunately, I wasn’t involved, and I slowly came to the realization that the wall separating my bedroom from the neighbor’s wasn’t all that thick (or at least not very soundproof). I don’t remember what time this was (I’d guess 7 AM or so), but I really wanted to be asleep instead.

Long story short, I couldn’t go back to sleep, and they were still going at it when I left for work at 8. Lucky couple… :stuck_out_tongue:

I am very much a voyeur. So much so that I greatly annoy any of my friends who may be in couples at the time. When people are kissing I have been known to park my face about two inches away from them and just watch. Obnoxious I know, but sometimes I can’t help it.

I’m also an exhibitionist, but that’s for another thread.

No, I guess my nocturnal strolls don’t qualify as true voyeurism. (Duggunnit!) The same route taken in the late summer at the start of the dance season or late spring during the last weeks practices before my daughter’s recital offer a relatively completely different world. During these times the warming rays of the sun and the lingering light seem to change the people I pass in the street as well as the sight lines that draw my eye. During these times of the year there are almost always more people on the street. Their posture is better, or perhaps mine is just better, and generally facial expressions are more relaxed and open. Nothing like the cold winter winds that bring grimacing bent figures. The winter darkness turns a wall with illuminated windows into an art gallery. Each window is like a picture on a darkened wall, pulling my eye towards it. When the days are longer the wall exists as its own facade. The mortar between the brick or stone revealing the craftsmanship of the builder. The wood carvings visable in the gables. All the while, the college crowd and townies move in weaving groups from pub to bar.

Suo Na I say hello to all the animals on my walk.

Stylus Probably shouldn’t put a scanner on my christmas list. Never get anything done then.

Dire Wolf Probably just as well there’s never been a hairy ass visable. Gross me out. But a young college aged female ass, well that would be different story…

Veb Thanks for the good word. And I believe you’re right, people are nice.

hypergirl Your forthright approach is novel, to say the least! It’d be a bit disconcerting though.

Think I’ll go home and pinch the blinds shut tonight. Wink.

Dave

When I go walking, I, sometimes, look in open windows. The guy who used to live across the street would stand in front of his TV, arms out stretched above his head, screaming his love for his god.

He also used to scream at his kids…“how can you love god if you don’t love your Daddy?”…the the beatings would start.

I didn’t look into his house after that. Poor kids.

People where I live are pretty bland. They’re either watching TV or reading a book. Just like me.

I was visiting a friend in NJ once and he suggested that we spend the day walking around NYC. Sounded fine to me. I’ve only been a few times and it never fails to amaze me (Why isn’t there just total chaos and mayhem here?). We were walking along street lined with nice rowhouses when I happened to look in a window and there, on the owner’s mantel, was an Academy Award. I have no idea what it was for (could have been for Best Editing of a Short Foreign Language Animated Production for all I know), but it sure did make an impression on me. This person (whoever it is) has been recognized by his peers as doing good work. Plus, you just don’t see an Oscar everyday (or at least I don’t). I felt like knocking on the door and saying “Congratulations for whatever you did.”

The Fan District neighborhood here in Richmond has many streets that are just great for walking through. My favorite time is in the winter, just at twilight. People are getting home from work, turning on the lights, getting ready to “be home.” The houses usually look so warm and inviting.

If I’m stuck in a mall or airport or some other such place I often make up little stories about the folks around me as a way to kill the time. “Hmmm, this is John. He’s posing as a businessman, but he’s really an hired killer on his way to a hit. Over there is Maria. Maria is on her way to see her father, with whom she had a fallng out years ago and only now is she trying to make amends.” I wonder if they’re doing the same with me?

Yep, Dave, the world is an infinitley fascinating place if people would just slow down, look around, open their ears.