As my previous post, a mere 12 hours or so ago, indicated, I don't really do anthropology lately. As much as one is ever "doing" it. Tonight, after a long day at work, I stopped at a nearby tiny sushi place (one of the best I think in SF). I'd done this once before, showing up alone, sitting at the bar, and just eating. Not reading, not looking at my phone, not worrying about work, not planning the future (escape). I used to get to do this all the time. Sitting. Observing. Listening. Thinking. Not rushing. I miss all those things. In doing them, I started remembering what I like about fieldwork, about actively engaging with anthropology. My back was to most of the tables, and so I could only hear conversations among the diners, without seeing expressions or what they were eating.
It reminded me how much I love the observational part of anthropology, how it's a skill and a superpower simultaneously. I like having to pay attention to nuances to read and to absorb the information around me. Having my back to people forced me to do that. It also provided the pleasure of tacit voyeurism. I know I forget in restaurants that the confessional moments with friends can be heard by anyone around me. The assumption that the public space creates anonymity is pretty naïve, but the frequent public cell phone conversations that we all engage in suggests that we all believe it -- or don't care if we forgo privacy and anonymity. I like how much I can read from conversations, little interpersonal dynamics that get lost when it's happening to me, seem so transparent and poignant when I'm listening to or watching others' interactions.