I chose a booth with my back against the wall, giving me a foreboding view of the Galleria food court. Armed with a pencil and a ready notebook, I started jotting down observations during the three hours I spent engaged in people-watching. Initially, nothing in particular caught my attention as I scanned from table to table, only noting the usual routines commonly seen in any mall food court.
Throughout the day at the mall, various people could be observed, including employees on their lunch breaks, stay-at-home mothers running errands with their children, and elderly individuals wandering aimlessly. Surprisingly, this pattern continued even in the late afternoon when most children were still in school and adults were at work. The mall had a quiet atmosphere with only a few relaxed mothers leisurely walking with or beside their babies. Many of these moms were Caucasian and exhibited their wealth through their jewelry and designer handbags.
Observing the food court, I saw two mothers sitting in front of me. They were casually picking at their grilled chicken salads while their children ran wild in the nearby play place. These mothers didn’t interact with anyone who passed by and didn’t offer assistance to a panicking lady whose son had gone missing while she was ordering lunch. Instead, they kept to themselves and engaged in their own gossip. Occasionally, they would briefly interrupt their conversation to comfort their children after a tumble on the kiddy slide.
As the clock struck 5, I observed a change in the overall crowd. Numerous adolescents started showing up, either being dropped off by their parents or driving themselves if they were upperclassmen. They arrived in groups, making loud and annoying sounds for anyone nearby to hear. Swear words were frequently used upon their arrival, and sexual jokes were also common. A specific area of the food court seemed to be occupied mostly by African American teenage boys who stood there with sagging pants and a sense of pride, believing they owned that place.
The girls kept their distance but couldn’t tear their eyes away from the table where the boys were seated. They attempted to catch their attention by laughing excessively at an unfunny joke or dancing to their preferred song on their iPhones. Nevertheless, none of the girls possessed the bravery to approach the boys directly. They would come up with excuses to walk in their direction, yet they never engaged in conversation with them. Families began avoiding this area and started frequenting different sections of the mall.
Throughout the evening, I observed the presence of hired security guards monitoring the crowds. This interaction continued for approximately an hour until police officers arrived. The officers directed the guards away from their designated areas and into the crowd. Surprisingly, an hour later, the same groups had returned. During the dinner rush, tables started to fill up and by 6:30, all tables were occupied. I frequently noticed that some tables, capable of seating 6 people, were only occupied by one person, yet nobody seemed willing to sit there.
I observed that a lot of individuals would wait for a table to become available, or they would loiter persistently near a table until the current occupants eventually yielded and vacated. In terms of couples roaming around, I rarely witnessed interracial couples. People generally preferred to stay within their own racial group, with white individuals walking hand in hand with other whites, and black individuals walking hand in hand with other blacks. This aspect continues to baffle me – why does color hold such significance when it comes to romantic partnerships? Why must race determine the kinds of relationships we pursue?