Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wait, what did she say?

I love to eavesdrop.

Since I’ve never met a writer who didn’t love to eavesdrop, this is akin to telling you I’m rather fond of Chianti.

My favorite conversations to overhear are the ones that take awhile to figure out. I’m thinking of the one that occurred in a romantic oceanfront restaurant where Pythagoras and I dined on a recent trip to the Oregon Coast. We were seated so we could both watch the ocean, but Pythag had his back to the adjacent table.

That’s where the good conversation was happening, and it went something like this:

Older woman: He’s having a really hard time getting it up.

Younger woman: I think it’s just not long enough.

Older woman:
Maybe if it were tighter—

Younger woman: No, I think he just needs it to be blowing a different way.

Pythagoras – who couldn’t see where the women were looking – was wide-eyed by this point. I actually could see what they were discussing, but I was still laughing so hard I nearly choked on my dinner roll.

“They’re talking about that guy flying his kite on the beach,” Pythag finally guessed.

“Probably,” I admitted. “But wait ‘til it ends up in one of my books.”

Are you an eavesdropper? What’s the most interesting conversation you’ve overheard? Please share in the comments.

And watch what you say around anyone with a notebook and an evil gleam in her eye.


Abby Minard said...

Haha! Love it! I am totally an eavesdropper. My ears just prick up when I hear a whispered conversation not meant for me. The only problem is I can't hear worth crap so it comes out all distorted and half the time I have no idea what they are saying. So I just make up my own story ;p

Patty Blount said...

Definitely an eavesdropper. I love it! I get so many interesting snippets that end up in stories later.

The best? Go back to my blog and read the comments about my trip to NYC to meet Sean Ferrell and Jeff Somers, when I transcribed the Oompaloompa conversation overheard on the train ride in.

Tawna, every time I hear the word, "oompaloompa" now, I dissolve into a ten-minute belly-laugh fit.

Claire Dawn said...


Unfortunately, I live in a non-English speaking country so I miss all the innuendo now :(

Sarah W said...

Delurking to share:

"It won't go in the hole. I need a new thing."

"No, yours is just like mine, see? You just have to aim a little to the left and drive it hard. Here, watch how your Mommy and I do it."

Overheard at a putt-putt golf course. I love how you can't make this stuff up.

Decades from now, I may actually tell my seven-year old why her Mommy was snorting and coughing 'til she teared up. Perhaps I'll save it for her rehearsal dinner . . .

Heather M. Gardner said...

Overheard at a recent family wedding reception:

"She's not pregnant? You mean she's just fat?"

lora96 said...

Overheard at Disney (it's the four year old's bday--she's in a cinderella dress):

Mom: Do you want to keep your ring on?

Kid: Yes. I wuv my cinderella ring

Mom: Well it's special and I know you'd be sorry to lose it.

Kid: I wanna wear it. I'll keep it on my fattest finger, see! (holds up index finger adorned with huge knuckle-dusting green plastic gemstone)

Mom: Since it's your birthday, I'll let you decide if you want to wear it or not.

Kid: I wanna wear it.

Mom: Okay. Give me the ring.

(mom takes ring, puts it on her own hand and gazes at it. i secretly believe that mom will lose the ring herself)

Terry said...

Funny! I just wanted to weight in on yesterdays blog since I didn't get a chance. The best advice I got about show don't tell was in 2 parts. One - often we as writers will tell because we want to be sure our readers get it or we want to get through something quickly. Answer: Have more faith in you readers, your story and you ability. Two - go through you ms and take out the words was and had. Not Sara was scared out of her mind but show it by her reactions, heart racing, pacing etc. Not Sara had a cold but Sara's head was pounding, eyes water and she'd already blown through half a box of tissue. It took me hours to go through the first 7 chapters I written but what a differenc it made!!!

Linda G. said...

ROF,L! This is exactly what TG and I do when we go out to dinner. I'm always afraid the other diners are wondering why we keep laughing when we haven't actually said anything to each other.

One recent snippet, from the man at the table next to us: "Just swallow already! Why is it so hard to swallow?" I can only assume he was speaking to his toddler and not his wife. At least, I hope so.

Terry said...

Ammendment!! Not was pounding okay . . .I have to stop laughing before I finish .... BUT Sara's head pounded!!

Penelope said...

Oh, I love that your husband couldn't see the visual behind the conversation. I do love eavesdropping, I must admit.

Jason said...

I absolutely do this! My wife and I will be out somewhere and since we are fairly quiet ourselves we usually hear the same conversations. Someone will say something and all it takes is a confused look from one of us to the other to send us cracking up. Good to know we are on the same wavelength.

Sometimes only one of us hears it and starts laughing, so there is also a decent amount of whispered "I'll tell you later" until we are out of earshot of the parties in question.

I really should start carrying a notepad around...I do send myself email notes via my phone on occasion. :)

Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

I am unable to tune out other people's conversations, even when I really want to. Hubby, on the other hand, is always oblivious. Even when it would be impossible for most people NOT to hear something, he doesn't.

Colene Murphy said...


I adore eavesdropping! I just never seem to have a write utensil handy.Need to work on that.

Danica Avet said...

OMG, that's the best!! LOL

I do listen to others' conversations, but most of the time I fear my family's conversations are the ones other people freak out over. We all used to play the same RPG and dinner conversations (whether we dined at home or out) were always about the game. I'm surprised we were never arrested because we used phrases like:
"You stole my purse!"
"I'm gonna kill your daddy."
"I can't believe you cut his head off!"
"Well, I found this new weapon and..."

You name was probably said.

Unknown said...

This is why I love having hearing aids!! :D

Either I just have to turn them up, or I can leave my ... (ok, I'm not entirely sure what it's called now a days the name keeps being changed, but it's a microphone which sends a radio signal to my hearing aids and I can hear it from up to 50 metres away!! [not sure what that is in yards ... you can tell I'm Canadain when...]).

But it's perfect for leaving somewhere in the house and eavesdropping on everyone. I just have to make sure I hide it ...

Oh, and I also have a digital voice recorder too.

shhh! They're strickly for my classes ...

MU-HA-HA-HA-HA- GAG! CHOKE! GASP! sputter! ... ha?

Anonymous said...

"Pythagoras and I dined on a recent trip to the Oregon Coast."


PK HREZO said...

That's priceless. I love arguments... not to be in them, but to listen to them. I have my mental pen and paper ready jotting notes as they happen. The more heated, the higher my ears perk up. :)

Kadi Easley said...

My favorite overheard comment..."My ole man done had two heart attacks and he ain't dead yet."

Anonymous said...

Overheard in a Walgreens store:

Woman: It's about the donkey, I'm telling you.

Older Woman: No it's not. I saw her face and she was grinnin'.

Stephanie said...

LOL! That's great!!!! My favorite is just watching people when I can't hear what they're seeing...I like reading body language and making my own dialogue!

Lora/Diva said...

@Danica: Husband and I have been guilty of surreal RPG discussions in public as well.

Him: I cannot BELIEVE you made the Dire Wolverine your pet.
ME: What can I say? I got Charisma.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, eavesdropping! I always do that at dinner and try to laugh about them with my husband, but he stubbornly refuses to eavesdrop on the same conversations. Hurumph.

I commute by train and if I'm ever in the same car with a certain man, I try to leave. He broadcasts his phone conversations and they leave nothing to the imagination. "I said...then he said...then I told him..." I now know about his relationship with his daughter and ex-wife, his financial situation and what he thinks about the guy his daughter bought her car from.


Abby, that's like the game "telephone" where someone says "I like grape jelly on toast" and by the time it gets around the circle, you think they've said "your mother is a whore." I like that game.

Patty, I remember your oompaloompa story, it was hysterical!

Claire Dawn, I'm pretty fluent in Spanish, but have never been a very good eavesdropper in that language, so I know exactly what you mean!

Sarah, ohmygod, I would have been DYING laughing! That's a great story.

Heather, that's hilarious. Was the "she" in question nearby?

lora96, LOL, you should have followed them around for awhile and nabbed the ring from mom's pocket.

Terry, great point about the showing/telling post. Did Blogger refuse to let you put this comment on that post? It's a bastard like that sometimes.

Linda G, oh dear, I would have been rolling under the table with maniacal laughter. How did you control yourself?

Penelope, I was actually pretty impressed he figured out what they were talking about!

Jason, that's one of the best parts of being married a long time -- you can crack each other up with dirty jokes without saying a word!

Elizabeth Flora Ross, Pythag can be a little oblivious in most situations, but he's a surprisingly skilled eavesdropper.

Colene, I sometimes make notes on my phone. Or on a napkin. Or in lipstick on the inside of my checkbook cover.

Danica, LOL, people must loooooooove eavesdropping on you!

Matthew, so you have bionic hearing? That is the coolest thing EVER.

terripatrick, are you wondering where we dined, questioning my sentence structure, or trying to find something dirty in that sentence? Your "hmmm" is so intriguing I'm thinking perhaps you're plotting to kill me.

Mac, I live to amuse you :)

PK Hrezo, I agree, arguments are loads of fun, especially when they turn nasty.

KD Easley, wow, what a touching sentiment!

Sharla, I seriously would have peed myself laughing if I'd heard that!

Stephanie, you have a true writer's mind!

Lora/Diva, snicker! I'd like a pet wolverine.

theemptypen, overheard phone conversations are the best. What is it with people thinking they need to scream into the phone to be heard?

Thanks for reading, guys!

Heather M. Gardner said...

These were great!

Not only was she in the room, she may have overheard the comment. It was said by one of those Aunts that doesn't think they have poor hearing and yet they are practically shouting at you when they talk!

Génette Wood said...

Hmm, I'm a little late to the comment party.

Went out to dinner last night with 2 buds. One (JJ) disklikes eavesdropping, the other (Gary) loves it.

Overheard by Gary & me, completely ignored by JJ:

Drunk girl: Gary, your dad is really cool.

(My Gary freaks out and tries to figure out Drunk Girl knows his dad)

Other Gary: Yeah I guess.

Drunk girl: No, like the coolest guy that ever lived.

Drunk guy: Yeah, he could walk on water if he wanted to.

Other Gary: I guess.

Drunk girl: He's like...the most interesting man alive.

(Other Gary probably wonders if Drunk Girl is the lipstick he found on his dad's collar)

The entire time, my Gary & I are laughing (his dad isn't nearly as "interesting" as Other Gary's dad), while JJ attempts to ignore us and a stray cat about to leap onto his head.

All in all, it turned out to be a very random night.

Lynne Kelly said...

Tawna, this cracks me up! I blogged about the same thing recently when I overheard a woman complaining about being naked when she was tied to a gurney and pepper-sprayed.