I’m a people watcher — plain and simple — I enjoy watching people. I don’t do it to critique, make assumptions, nor to criticize. I simply enjoy watching people. Recently I noticed an insignificant situation that happens to most of us, which I knew I was reacting to, and I decided to change my behavior. That behavior is what I will call scanning ahead.
I believe we all do the scanning ahead tactic in some form. I was recently handed a binder of information and the first action I wanted to take was to thumb through the binder to look at its contents. Scanning through 150 pages of information was not a solution to anything. I obviously cannot read that fast, nor would it serve to answer any questions about the content of the binder other than confirm there really were 150 pages of information included. So why did my palms itch to thumb through the binder? Why was it so incredibly tempting to peek ahead? I had to hold myself back physically to not turn pages ahead and mentally had to tell myself to stop thinking about it. I’m sure if someone were watching me, my dilemma was funny to watch play out in puzzlement and frustration on my face.
After the meeting, and receiving the satisfaction of getting to actually look through each of those pages, I began paying more attention to the scanning ahead I do and that others do. In several situations I watched as others were handed papers and then immediately glossed through those pages. And once again, I found myself wondering why we do it. It’s probably a whole branch of psychological analysis too intense for me to research and write about. As I watched others scan ahead, I made myself not partake in the behavior. I have challenged myself to this will against the scanning ahead.
I also observed people looking at books in this same way. Many look at the cover and read the inside cover synopsis, but surprisingly most adults only seem to gloss the pages quickly for font size. Children and teens on the other hand look much closer at the inside pages of books. Teens read the inside synopsis much like adults do, but they thumb slower through the pages perhaps for size font or some mysterious force that will speak to them that this is the book for them. Children are my favorite to watch scan a book, because it’s complete and obvious judgment. Children begin a gloss and are frequently drawn right into it. They see a word or picture that catches their eye and they either stand right in their spot and begin to read or they sit down right where they are and begin to read.
The smallest of readers are captured by a visual element and they too are lost to the world around them. They are just as likely to, not only sit down with the book, but also lay down and become lost in the pages. This all happens while simply scanning ahead. It’s a beautiful thing to observe. One moment the judging is taking place and then next they are transported to a magical place and their faces show every emotion of the journey.
Just for fun, the next time you pick something up of substance like a magazine, a book, documents, or even the paper, stop and see if you too are scanning ahead. If so, I hope you ask yourself why you just did it. And if you are lucky enough to have a child in your life, watch their scanning ahead behavior. I promise you it’s the most rewarding people watching you’ll do.
Leslie Scott is the Director for the Prosper Community Library.