Sunday, August 10, 2008

The art of eavesdropping

It really is an art form, you know, one that needs constant practice and refinement if you want to master it with any subtlety and finesse (enough that your husband doesn't lose patience with you in a restaurant.)

ie., while having dinner out last week with my hubby, I listened in on a heated conversation between an unhappy couple next to us (they finally agreed to disagree about their son's choice for a wife) while also eavesdropping on an eyebrow raising "we only have an hour " let's-eat-and-get-out-of-here talk between a couple at the opposite table who looked like they'd slipped off their wedding bands at the door (trust me, all the signs of an affair were there.) Beyond that, a woman and her friend were at a corner table, one wiping away tears while the other said, "He really wasn't worth it."

I know. It's invasive and impolite, but (shrug) I can't help it. It's not intentional, more like a multi-tasking reflex I can't control. I'm an author after all and on a subconscious level I'm always looking for new material, but beyond that... I really do find people and what they go through fascinating. No crime there, right? To be fair, I also listen in on my own family. For example, yesterday, I overheard a chat between my nine-year-old and his buddy that enlightened me on a child's point of view when it comes to the development of the human brain (potentially good material for some future novel.) It went like this:

My son: "You don't really have a brain until you're two. Until then it's just mush, like Jello. From two until five it grows, then when you turn five the protective cover falls off and your brain starts soaking up everything everybody says to you and everything you see on TV."

Other kid (looking skeptical): "Huh... Do you think your brain has changed since your cover came off?"

My son: "Oh, yeah! Until I was five, speed meant nothing to me! I'd ride down a big hill on my bike or go on a rollercoaster and I didn't care cuz I didn't know anything about death or dying. I won't do any of that now, though. Now I know too much."

Time to fess up, bloggers. Are any of you shameless eavesdroppers like me?

13 comments:

Nadine said...

My hand's up -- But I do have to admit I only eavesdrop when it looks juicy!

Adam said...

I find what people do and what they go through annoying so I can't be bothered but I know many many women who seem to do this, not only writers.

Could be a gender thing?

kyla-dale said...

*lol* Your kid rocks, he really does! Such a funny lil brain he has. Oh, and I do listen in like you but maybe not as much.

Melissa Marsh said...

Ha! I LOVE that conversation! The things kids say...

I think I'm guilty of the same thing - I love to people watch, too.

Dawn Anon said...

i don't think it's a gender thing... my grown, male friend is so nosey he not only eavesdrops, he does things like go thru people's gloveboxes, closets, and drawers. Really!


I LOVE THIS BLOG! I people watch. I love watching body language. I evasdrop if it's loud enough to be overheard in a public place. Many times at breakfast, we make up story lines to continue what we've heard.

L.C.McCabe said...

Holly,
Once my husband and I were in a French restaurant in Toronto and we were seated next to each other at a table. Our backs were against the wall.

That meant that we were facing the rest of diners in the restaurant.

Talk about people watching.

It was inevitable, and although I cannot recall any of the various couples and their stories because it was so long ago, but I do remember paying close attention and allowing my imagination to come up with all kinds of scenarios explaining the backstory of what the various scenes played out in front of us meant.

Similarly, I remember an old routine from Bill Cosby saying that he likes to play a game whenever he's in an airport. His supposition is that there is a spy somewhere, his mission is to find him.

Surreptitiously examining other passengers has got to be more entertaining than watching CNN on the television while waiting for your flight.

Cheers!

Victoria said...

Yessir, I people watch, eavesdrop and will (given the chance) check out the contents of a person's medicine cabinet because... I can't helllllllp myself.
There you go.
A full confession.

Oh, and Dawn Anon, I love this blog too!! Oh, and Ms. Kennedy? Your son is too kewl.

ORION said...

hahahahaha...you should have seen Holly and I in New York.
Glasses to the wall in the hotel room.
And when we ate out? We didn't even need to chat with each other over dinner - we were too busy listening to everyone else...

Cindy said...

I also do this when I eat out, sometimes I've even tuned out the person I'm with and listen more to other conversations than the one I'm trying to have.

Sometimes I go out for lunch when I am at work and I usually take my book with me, but I don't usually end of reading anything. I open my book but very seldom get anything read because I'm listening to everyone else around me.

Gen said...

Overheard on my bus ride to work this morning...

Girl on cell phone:

“…yeah, so I can’t go out with you guys tonight because I’m going over to Jake’s…what do you mean…of course I’m still with him…why wouldn’t I be?? OH MY GOD…I can’t believe she told you that…she’s just jealous! It’s not like that at all…you guys don’t know him the way that I do…

About two weeks after we opened our joint account, I found out that he had taken all of our money and was sleeping with some other girl. Of course, I was pissed but, when I went to talk to him about it he told me that he was actually just living out one of his fantasies and that he would have eventually told me about it. He said that he’s always had a fantasy about taking all of his girlfriend’s money and having a secret affair with someone other girl…and he said that I was the only girl that he’s felt comfortable enough to do this with…I KNOW…he’s totally the sweetest guy EVER. So anyways, once he told me all of this, I realized that it actually makes me a better girlfriend because I’m helping him fulfill his dreams…seriously…I think Jake might be the one…

You know, it’s really not so bad either because he only really spends three or four days a week with her and he promised me that he would put back all the money he’s been taking once he gets a job and really, I think he’s right about it being better for our relationship because I know that when we are together…I’m the one that he really loves…

Yeah…I don’t know who she is…I think that he said her name was Michelle or something. Really though, you have to kind of feel bad for her in a way…poor girl…do you think she has any idea what a fast one he’s pulling on her…???”

Commutes sure would be boring without eavesdropping!!!!

laughingwolf said...

fellow canadians have affairs?!? *gasp*

cute observations by your son, could be many short/shorts there :)

only time i can't avoid other folks' crap is when it's in my face... usually, in my ear! grrrrrr

Amy MacKinnon said...

It never occurred to me not to; I need to live vicariously through others' more interesting lives.

Jay said...

Beware of the strong, silent ones in the corner...

I'm a huge people watcher and I'm a guy. I was at an event a while back, snapping random pics with my digital camera set on the best setting. When the pics came through on my screen, in full 8x10 size, you wouldn't believe what some people in the crowd were doing!! In public!! Caught on film!! Perfect fodder for creating scenarios.