Sherlock's style of observation and deduction is more than just a great literary trick; it is a gift to all of Doyle's readers, because it presents a method we can try for ourselves. A Sherlockian never has to be bored while waiting to catch a train/plane/bus. All around us, fellow humans provide great specimens for mental experimentation.
All me to demonstrate.
Yesterday I pulled into a gas station. The way the station was arranged, once I had committed to a path I could not get out of it. There were two vehicles ahead of me at the two pumps, and the one directly in front of me had its lights on, so I assumed the person driving it had finished the transaction and was about to pull away. My wait time should have been no more than a minute. How wrong I was!
A minute ticked by, then two, then five! What was wrong? Finally, a woman stepped out of the driver's side and I realized that the pumping of gas had not yet begun! I was frustrated, but I couldn't move, so I spent my time making careful observations and toying with deductions about the lady.
She was driving a gleaming new Mercedes SUV, so my instinctive impression was that she had money. This was further confirmed by the large sticker for an elite private school in the back window. The woman was of average height, clad in jeans, boots, a turtleneck, and a fuzzy vest, with a cap on her head. I focused on the clothing: the vest bore the North Face logo, which I associate with the well-heeled students at my college. I couldn't peg the brand of jeans, but they sat low on her hips and the rear was covered in rhinestones and swirls, tres trendy. Her glasses also screamed gaudy designer (pinkish-red, the latest in big frames) and huge, tear-drop earrings twinkled their cost. Her nails were so long and heavily lacquered that I was surprised she could handle the gas pump. Her hair hung from the back of the dark cap in a ropey ponytail. My suspicion, based on its stiffness and too-perfect edges, was that it might well have been a hair extension. Her cap was pulled low, and with the addition of the glasses it was hard to see her face, but what I could see was heavily made up. And naturally she was talking on an iphone covered with a rhinestones shell.
She did not put down the phone as she pumped gas! And after completing her transaction, she got back into her Mercedes and continued to talk, making no effort to pull away from the line despite the fact that people were backed up behind her.
Unlike Holmes, I did not confirm my deductions. I could only play with what I had observed, and spin a theory as to what it meant. I found that in the process of doing this, not only had I killed some time (and kept myself from doing what I really wanted to do, which was slam my hand on my car's horn to get her to MOVE!), but I had also created a character. My deduction made her a woman in her late 30s/early 40s, fighting against age and trying to be cool by adopting the trapping of youth--designer jeans, vest, cap, hair extensions, mod glasses. She was wealthy, but not on her own; the very length of her fingernails would prevent her from engaging in any real work. She was daddy's princess before she was her husband's trophy wife---witness her complete disregard for anyone else's needs or time, not to mention issues of safety. And why was she on the phone so long? Surely a call to a housekeeper or hubby could have been quickly ended. The child in her life is probably too young for long and intense conversations, because the sticker is for a primary school. This was an extremely intense conversation, as the lady never looked up once. There was none of the usual flapping about that people do when they're on their phones and only half-heartedly engaged in conversation. This older woman was dressed to be young and hot---she ignored the feelings of others---and she was tied to her phone like a lifeline...hmmm.
Well, maybe not. But it was so much fun to pull that imaginary person out of those real life observations. If I were composing a Holmes story set in the modern world, she would certainly be a character in my tale---she'd be the one who gets killed off in the first pages, because she infuriated me!
This is Sherlock's gift! Try it for yourself and you'll find that you never have to be bored, as long as there are strangers around.