People Watcher

A cafe. I’m drinking coffee, typing on a laptop. I am trying to do some writing. But it’s hard to concentrate. Namely, because I am sitting beside a group of middle-aged women who are having a conversation about Tupperware.

“Do you remember my friend Martha?” says one woman. “Martha has a Tupperware container, she got it at Target, she can put anything in it.”


“Yep, anything she wants, she just puts it in the container.”

“Martha does?”

“She got it at Target.”

“They have good containers at Target.”

“Martha just loves it.”

“I’d love a container like that.”

“You should go to Target. That’s what Martha did.”

Shoot me.

I’m no longer writing. I’m people watching. My stare travels across the cafe where I see an old man seated alone. He is eating a sandwich, sipping coffee. He wears a ratty ball cap and gazes out the window. I have a soft spot for old men who look out windows.

Over to my left are teenagers—boys and girls. One boy is wearing a Boy Scout uniform, a girl sits beside him. They are holding hands. I smile because these kids are so happy Norman Rockwell would eat his heart out.

Also, I see an elderly couple sitting behind me. He’s talking into a cellphone, using a voice loud enough to register on the Richter Scale.

Cellphone Guy shouts, “My doctor said my heart is looking good, honey! There’s nothing to worry about! I don’t need surgery after all!”

And the ladies beside me keeps talking:

“Yep, Martha told me the lid just unscrews off her container.”

“The lid unscrews?”

“On and off, just like this.”

“How does it go back on?”

“When you wanna put the lid on, you screw it on. When you wanna take it off, you unscrew it.”

“Whose container is this again?”

“Martha’s container, she got it at Target.”

Give me strength.

So I’m not getting any writing done. I’m too busy observing the guy in the ratty cap, still staring out the window. He wears a tired face, it looks like he hasn’t shaved in days, his shirt has stains on it, and I can’t help but wonder who he belongs to.

Also, I’m too busy paying attention to Cellphone Guy, whose wife leans forward and shouts into the phone. “We’re so grateful your father’s heart is okay!”

And I can’t unhear the laughing from the ladies beside me.

“Well, I’ve never had a lid that unscrews. I’ve only had containers with lids that pop off. ”

“Me, too. My lids have always just popped off.”

“Whenever I’ve wanted take my lids off, I just popped them right off, like this, and that was how we did it.”

And Ratty Ballcap has finished his sandwich. Now, he is sipping his coffee with both hands. He keeps looking out the window with sad eyes.

His eyes follow a red SUV that rolls into the parking lot. A young woman steps out. She has blond hair, and is well-dressed. The old man is obviously taken with this woman because he is glued to the window.

More laughter from the Tupperware crew.

“Yep, Martha just walked right into Target and told that man, ‘I want a container with a lid that unscrews.’”

“Target has great containers.”

“They really do.”

Then the teens laugh. Boy Scout and his girl are scooting closer now. She’s leaning on him. I wish you could see how uncomfortable but altogether sincere they look.

Ratty Ballcap stands, preparing to greet the blonde from the SUV who is walking into the cafe. She makes a beeline for the old man. They embrace. She calls him Dad.

He is facing me. He pats her shoulders and closes his eyes. He looks enraptured.

“Sorry I’m late, Dad,” the blonde says to Ratty Cap. “Have you been waiting long?”

He grins. “Nope, just got here.”


My attention moves back to Cellphone Guy, he and his wife are still sharing the phone. The phone is on speaker so everyone in the restaurant can fully enjoy their conversation.

“We’re coming to see you tomorrow! We can’t wait to see you, honey! We love you so much!”

Anyway, I guess I’m not going to get any actual work done today. I’m too busy watching total strangers. But who cares? I’m seeing the mystery of the universe unfold itself right here in a small cafe.

And the great thing is, this sort of thing doesn’t just happen in cafes. It happens in airports, high schools, Waffle Houses, fellowship halls, trailer parks, county prisons, living rooms, hospitals, rehabs, classrooms, and nursing homes. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but people who love each other are everywhere. It is my absolute highest aspiration to be one of those people.

But first I’ve got to swing by Target.


  1. DeLois - July 2, 2021 6:51 am

    You are so adorable. I was sitting right beside you as you observed and described each person. Of course, Target was my next stop for screw-lidded Tupperware containers!

  2. Kay Williams - July 2, 2021 6:53 am

    Yep, Tupperware lids pop on and need to be burped. Martha got taken. This calls for a whole ‘nother conversation!!

  3. Suzi - July 2, 2021 9:01 am

    Better than the 6:00 News

  4. Laura - July 2, 2021 9:33 am

    How old are “middle aged” women? That sounds more like a conversation my mom, Martha, and her friends would have had at 80…..

    • Betty F. - July 2, 2021 3:58 pm

      Exactly. My “middle-aged” daughter-in-law (54) would be horrified.

    • Page The Social Worker - July 3, 2021 7:07 pm

      I’m with you on that. Middle age my foot!

  5. Stevie - July 2, 2021 10:15 am

    I love that you love old men (wearing, doing) various things and that you aspire to be one of them someday. Most of all, I love the kindness in your writing. Thank you Sean.

  6. Ann - July 2, 2021 10:15 am

    Taking time to people watch is a gift….thank you for the reminder and sharing a simple side of every day life!

  7. sparkerlpc - July 2, 2021 10:22 am

    Sean, I’m over here grinning, because you made me feel like .I was right there!

  8. Leigh Amiot - July 2, 2021 11:04 am

    My late mother loved to watch people. We went to the mall and sat outside Lane Bryant and after awhile a woman with a stack of styrofoam containers walked by and lost one off the top, Chinese food spilling onto the floor. She went on her way leaving the mess, and the real fun was watching everyone’s reactions. Spilled Chinese food looks like it has already been consumed, and a number of people reacted to it that way. My mother had the best belly laugh. Others simply stepped around it and that struck us as funny, too. Our fun was over when someone finally came along and cleaned it up, but now and again we’d laugh about that all over again.

    BTW, Sean, that’s my favorite vintage typewriter illustration thus far, though I like them all.

    • Joan moore - July 2, 2021 11:13 am

      Be sure that you buy the container that holds EVERYTHING!Keep up the good work, even if you aren’t getting any work done!

  9. Gwynn - July 2, 2021 11:36 am

    And again your writing inspired me. I am writing about a lady who moved back home after retiring from a big city news writing job and spends her days in the local coffee shop writing about the people that come in. I stopped writing for a while, but this story inspired me to pick up the coffee shop stories. I love people watching. This was a great one. Your conversation about the Tupperware ladies cracked me up and I teared up at the dad hugging his daughter. Thank you, Sean.

  10. John Corum - July 2, 2021 11:58 am

    Bravo – please don’t stop writing!

  11. Suzanne Moore - July 2, 2021 12:07 pm

    I enjoyed this little slice of life, Sean.

    I am still thinking about the people in Brewton, Alabama who suffered tornado damage al.ost two weeks ago. Isn’t your bride from Brewton? And wasn’t that the location of the wonderful buffet restaurant which accepted the payment that people could afford? Could you give us a comment on how those people are faring?

  12. Stephanie - July 2, 2021 12:13 pm

    Whenever we go out, my husband gives me the chair with the view. “So you can watch the people,” he says. I’m an artist, and am always looking for the moments that tell a story. I absolutely loved this blog, and painted every story in my mind as I read it. Thank you for seeing what many would look beyond for something bigger.

  13. Bob E - July 2, 2021 12:19 pm

    People watching is fun. It’s the main reason I used to go to the Detroit Tigers games. Reasons two and three involved hot dogs and beer. The ball game ran a less than compelling fourth.
    Take the time to go shopping and certainly keep writing Sean – you bring back so many fond memories.

  14. Nancy Crews - July 2, 2021 12:20 pm

    ❤your writing.

  15. Ronbo - July 2, 2021 12:25 pm

    Good article and love the last line. Ronbo

  16. Molly - July 2, 2021 1:53 pm

    Thank you for sharing the goodness in this old world! The every day sweetness! I forget sometimes and you bring it right back to me!! Thank you!

    • Tinkabell - July 2, 2021 3:16 pm

      My daily dose of ❤

  17. Tammy S. - July 2, 2021 2:37 pm

    Life through the eyes of Sean Dietrich, does it get any better. This was a great one. Also, please don’t be fooled. Target definitely doesn’t carry Tupperware. And Tupperware lips are pop on and off. And you have to “burp” the lip to remove excess air so your fruits and veggies stay fresh. My Mom sold Tupperware back in the day. Us 5 girls would help her sort and bag up orders. I loved using the stapler to attach the order slips. Good childhood memories of great times.

  18. Jeanette - July 2, 2021 2:43 pm

    I’m a new fan, but man I love your voice!

  19. Peggy ALEXANDER - July 2, 2021 2:57 pm

    I didn’t think they sold Tupperware in stores. I gave home parties.

  20. Emily - July 2, 2021 2:58 pm

    Your writing makes my day brighter! Please keep watching and writing!

  21. Debra - July 2, 2021 3:34 pm

    You are the best thing about my morning so far. Well.. I cooked bacon for me and the dogs for breakfast so you’re the second best thing.

  22. Sue Adams - July 2, 2021 3:59 pm

    Target really does have good containers, or so l heard from my group!

  23. Christina - July 2, 2021 4:34 pm

    I’m with you. Love people watching and wondering what each of their stories are… if only that could be a full time job 😂

  24. NancyB - July 2, 2021 5:28 pm

    Thanks! I always relax when I read your daily columns. They are a quiet, serene way to enjoy my lunch–and put a visit to Target on my “To Do” list!

  25. elizabethroosje - July 2, 2021 6:00 pm

    I LOVED this. thank you Sean, you put a smile in my heart again today!

  26. Ginger Smith - July 2, 2021 6:17 pm

    I haven’t been to Target in more than a year. I better just hop right over there!

  27. Rebecca Souders - July 2, 2021 6:23 pm

    You won’t find Tupperware at Target. You’ll need to have a Tupperware party, but I feel I must warn you. You invite friends to the party and you all agree to attend each others’ parties so you can all get the free stuff, but what you might not realize is that the Tupperware party is like a never-ending story.
    It took me a year and a half to get out of that party loop!
    Now I buy my containers at Target.

  28. Linda Moon - July 2, 2021 9:33 pm

    I’m so glad you watch people and tell their stories. I watched some of them earlier today: health-care workers and car-care workers. The health-care workers keep me “running” and the mechanic keeps the GEEP running. Yes…Geep, with G not a J. It was christened GEEP by one of my former students. I taught and watched him for many years as he worked hard to improved his reading skills. So, phonetically it’s pronounced Geep as in Geek, not as J in the actual word Jeep. The tag is personalized GEEP, in homage of my student. My Guy is the owner of the GEEP, and he sometimes wears a ratty ball cap, too. Sean, you’ve reached your aspiration. You surely have.

  29. Virginia - July 2, 2021 11:40 pm


  30. Steve McCaleb - July 3, 2021 2:14 am

    People watching can tickle you slap to death. Or it can absolutely break your heart into tiny pieces. Observe with caution.

  31. June - July 3, 2021 2:17 am

    If you watch ppl long enough at an event, you will be amazed at the doppelgängers. People that look like people you know are everywhere if you look long enough. It’s so much fun. Love your writing. It makes me feel like living!!

  32. Jewel - July 3, 2021 6:01 am

    I was sitting there right with you seeing everything fold out, I chuckled listening to the ladies ping-ponging back & forth over the Tupperware, grinned at the young love cuddling in their seats, but my throat got tight and i could feel tears as the old man patiently but sadly seemed to watch through the window but then finally got to see & hug her & even lied so she wouldn’t feel bad. I miss my dad & would trade almost anything to get to hug him again, but I know I will have to be patient & wait until we’re reunited. But this story reminded me again not only to cherish love & not take it for granted, but also to not miss out on recognizing the love that is all around us. Every time you write you refresh my perspective & remind me of what really matters in this world. it is bittersweet. and I could not be more grateful.

    P.S. I’m stealing this & plan to frame it like this:

    “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but people who love each other are everywhere. It is my absolute highest aspiration to be one of those people.”
    -Sean of the South

    “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.”
    -1 Corinthians 13:13

    – –

    Please keep writing for us, & please don’t ever stop.

  33. Diane L. - July 3, 2021 12:13 pm

    I don’t think Target sells Tupperware. You gotta buy actual Tupperware from a Tupperware lady (or man, I guess.). Good column idea. Profile a Tupperware lady.

  34. Linda Moon - July 3, 2021 4:53 pm

    P.S. My Guy and I thought about this after I posted yesterday: My student’s name was Zach and the mechanic who fixed the Geep is also a Zach! That’s a cool coincidence! The Geep is fixed and back home.

  35. Bill Harris - July 9, 2021 11:26 pm

    Thank you Sean

  36. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 12, 2021 2:04 pm


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