“What’s a hobby I could enjoy?” I muse aloud, turning on my computer. My therapist, Eleanor Stine, who said I needed one, is an amateur taxidermist. I find the symbol for the internet and wait, thinking. If my memory is correct, my mother-in-law likes to donate hand-made hats to charity. My son collects dinosaur figurines. My mother buys them for him. My daughter is into dollhouse building. I type “hobby list” in the browser’s search box. I click “World’s Largest List of Hobbies,” second from the top. My screen fills with information. I notice how many of the 238 hobbies listed are things done on behalf of somebody. If I do a hobby, I want the credit, not some group I hardly know.
“Let’s see,” I sigh, “Air craft spotting, boring. Air brushing, not likely.” I’m amazed at the number of things listed that aren’t things I would ever do. More than half of them are uninteresting and the rest require something, like money or another hobbyist. Then my eyes land on a likely prospect, “People Watching.” That’s a hobby? I notice there’s a link, here. I click it and the screen display shifts.
“People Watching – A Hobby For Everyone” the article’s title declares. I read the article beneath it and find it particularly interesting. How strange to think of going to a park, a bookstore, the mall or an airport, just to watch people and listen to them talk. This, the article says, is an actual sport. Writers do it for inspiration. I realize I’m grinning. I picture myself sitting in a park bench near a playground where my kids are having the time of their lives, with maybe a notepad in my hand for writing down descriptions of people I see and what they’re doing or talking about. Maybe I could bring a camera and take a few pictures of people I watched. Maybe I could actually write a blurb about what I watched them do in a journal or a scrapbook or something when I got home. That could actually be fun. I wonder if my therapist would buy it.
“You’re a workaholic, Jim,” she’d told me. “What you need is a hobby. Pick something that will bring you closer to your family, something they can do with you, if they want to.”
“Great,” I grumbled back, wishing for the umpteenth time that my wife, Leah, could have just let me work. “My plate’s already full and now I need something else to do. Thanks a lot, Eleanor.”
On the way home, though, I realized it couldn’t be too bad having something to do outside of work. After all, construction work, though satisfying, is stressful. That’s the reason I’m wasting my time in front of my wife’s home computer searching for a hobby.
My wife sets a mug of something at my elbow. “Country Peach Passion,” says the orange tag dangling from the mug. I sigh, remembering that my doctor, whose hobby is building and firing model rockets, told me to get my weight down.
“No more soda for you, Jim,” he’d chided, “or you’re headed for the land of diabetes.”
“Did you find something you like, Jimmy?” Leah asks, from my right.
“I dunno, babe,” I hedge, wanting to be sure she won’t disapprove of my sitting around watching people for hours at a time. “What do you think of this?” I gesture at the screen. She grabs the mouse and scrolls down, quickly reading the article. I’ve always envied my wife’s ability to quickly read anything put in front of her. She has a whole slew of hobbies, from visiting garage sales to yoga. It makes her a real interesting gal. I never know what she’ll try next. Last week she spent the whole morning sketching the big tree in our back yard.
“I could do this at the park while the kids are playing,” I explain, “or at the mall while you’re shopping.”
“Are you sure this isn’t just an excuse to ogle other women?” she half teases, taking a sip from her tea mug. She’s worried that I’m losing interest in her; that I work so much because I’m not into her any more. I’ve tried to tell her that isn’t possible, but she still insisted on therapy.
“What do Ineed another woman for, babe?” I reply, wrapping my arm around her waist. “I’ve got you.”
Leah giggles, something she hasn’t done in while, so I pull her into my lap for a kiss.
“Jimmy, if you want to spend the afternoon watching people,” she says, caressing my stubbly cheek. “It’s okay with me.” I grin and kiss her again.
Maybe this won’t be as bad as I thought it would be.
This story is rather shorter than I usually do. Sometimes I don’t write them so much as they write me. This story is no exception. I mean, I’ve grown up with the idea that all workaholics are white collar workers in office buildings. The idea of a workaholic being a construction worker in need of a hobby struck me as an interesting twist.
Anyway, my apologies for the length of time between stories. This exercise had me particularly stumped due to the word “taxidermist” in the word list. Also, although I tried to keep the list in the first 75 words of the story, I was unable to do so. Still, if you check the exercise link, you’ll see that they got used in the exact order given.