Sticking with last week’s theme of sounds floating into one’s ears. First, let’s be clear that overhearing is not the same as eavesdropping. It’s like the difference between hearing and listening. One just happens, as sound waves travel through the ear canal to the tympanic membrane. You can’t decide for it not to happen. Listening (or eavesdropping), is intentional–you’re making an effort.
Overhearing is like clicking through channels and catching out-of-context snippets that sometimes make your eyebrows jump up to your hairline. Like the time I was in Paris with a friend and we overheard two young women ahead of us talking about being held up. My friend and I quickly shifted from overhearing to eavesdropping. This was too interesting to not follow. So we followed them, just far enough behind to not freak them out yet hear their tales. “I put my phone in my underwear now,” one said. “The worst part is losing your photos,” the other lamented. Paris is extremely safe as big cities go, but things can still happen. Mostly it’s pickpocketing–a pain, a hassle, a financial hit, but not violent. In fact, the point of pickpocketing is for the victim to not notice. But sometimes things escalate.
The New Yorker has run a few features in which one or another of their cartoonists goes out into the city to sketch overheard conversations. They are hilarious. In that vein, use your imagination around some of these random street quotes that I’ve been collecting. Much of the time, my reaction is just: So. Many. Questions.
“I work with children. I get coughed on on a daily.”
“Nobody wants to hear that word.” !!!!!!! what word??????
“I don’t think I can dye my hair pink.”
Three twenty-ish guys in a hot argument….about Keith Haring. New York.
One burly, bearded millennial to another: “Then my ACTUAL girlfriend is going to come and she’s going to f***ing say WTF your ex is still f***ing here!”
“C’est interminable!” (“It never ends!”) French woman looking for the street exit after seeing the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
“Bon anniversaire! C’est la moindre des choses! Oh la la!” Woman on the phone.
“I want an apology first off.” Different woman on the phone.
At Zaytina, José Andrés’s restaurant in Washington, a child has a screaming fit. A nearby diner observes, “They’re definitely LA.”
“C’est qui, Richard Nixon?” (“Who’s Richard Nixon?”) French woman in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Her middle-school-age son explained.
Man: “I really regret it.” Woman: “I know.”
“He was like a sharpshooter.”
“I don’t know…I flew too close to the sun last night.”
“My bedroom is SUPERCOOL!” Three-year-old.
“You wasted the $200 you got paid?!?!” kid to parent in a mall.
“That’s why I appreciate you, man. You’re really rooting for me.” Man in Bed, Bath and Beyond.
“Well, to be real, it’s been Covid.”
“I’ve got to do something. I don’t know, you know?”
Two guys in suits, looking like escapees from the movie “Hidden Figures.” One says: “In an era of ripped jeans and yoga pants, I feel like I’m the only one who wears a tie.”
Man yelling at woman: “I’m not yelling at you!”
“Is it controversial? Yes. Will the city do it? Probably.”
“I’m not ravenous but I’m eating.”
“Whaddaya want? I can hear you.” Bartender at airport motel bar (there are dives, and then there are dives at airport motels, where, by dint of isolated location, one has a choice between taking a chance and going in or waiting until the promised rebooked flight the next day and finding something in the actual airport–marginally better ambiance but perhaps not better food. In this particular establishment, table drinks were served in flimsy to-go plastic cups because of “incidents of beer-throwing.”)
Elderly guy in Washington Square Park to another elderly guy at the end of our park bench: “Jim! Where the hell you been for two days? You been missin’ for two days!”
Jim: “I have no cash. I have income but it ain’t comin’ in. Not ’til the 20th!”
You just can’t beat New Yorkers for witty repartee. And I don’t think Jim was even trying.
Do share your wacky overheard snippets with us!