People-watching is a favorite pasttime - Beside the Point


I love a blank computer screen... and I hate it at the same time.

On one hand it's full of promise and challenge, on the other hand is frustration and impatience.

There are many writers locally that know exactly how that feels. Robin Delaney has probably had many days at the Daily Democrat where she's stared at a blank screen. FMMS teacher Megan Kruse writes wonderfully and regularly and I'm sure she feels the same thing.

Some people only write when they have something to say. That's easy. No offense. But I try to find something to say that's compelling enough to keep people reading daily, and then give them something a bit more special on Sunday.

With your coffee and toast today I want you to think about how your life has come together.

This isn't therapy. Well maybe it is, but it isn't meant to be.

I see so many people week to week and I'm a people watcher. I really am. It's one of my favorite things to do when I go places, especially New York City. That can be dangerous, so you really have to be on the sly.

The last time we were in the city, we had some time before our dinner reservation so we went to a place called the Dubliner in the Wall Street District.

This place was packed with 30-somethings dressed in business casual all with heavy-bottomed scotch glasses or fancy martini glasses. While we waited for our reservation about a block away, I started imagining how this person or that person got to where they are at that moment.

Lawyers, finance... we were in the Wall Street District after all - marketing, graphic design. You didn't see teacher-types, or journalists - except one. I'm almost certain that everyone in that place knew I was probably from Iowa - certainly not from New York. That's just fine with me.

I watch coaches and mayors, players and teachers, cops and crooks and it never seems to escape me that most people are genuine with who they are and how they carry themselves. There's a saying that goes something like, 'people will show you who they are, you just have believe them'.

I believe you.

We're all here for a short time and as each day goes by we should take stock in where we are and where we're going. Could we be better? Of course. We all can be better, but a lot of you, as I see you anyway, are pretty damned good.

I've been on the bench, well sidelined anyway, for about two weeks. And one of the things that's been made clear to me is that people keep moving. Having to basically stay in bed and let healing take place drives me absolutely crazy. I miss people watching.

Now that things are starting to ease up a bit and I've been able to hobble around a bit thanks to the magical hands of Dr. Tim Wondra, watching people walk happily and easily around downtown brings a smile to my face.

I saw people I know and was grateful for that blessing. But its the people that I don't know that are walking and talking, escorting children and just busily going from A to B. It makes me smile and slow down just a little bit to enjoy the people watching.

Life is a blessing. People are a blessing. A short conversation while stopped in the middle of Avenue G on a Saturday morning is a blessing. That's only something you can do in rural America. Try that on W. 34th Street in New York City. Honking will ensue along with some yelling and obscene gestures.

I like the people of Fort Madison and Lee County- the calmness and neighborliness of it all. I'm sure most people think I'm kinda whacky and just a bit extemporaneous, but who cares - their company is a blessing.

So always feel free to stop me for a brief conversation about whatever you want. I'll try to act prepared but odds are I won't be. That's what makes it fun - But that's Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is co-owner and editor of Pen City Current and can be reached at

beside the point, Chuck Vandenberg, editorial, opinion, Pen City Current, Sunday


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