Sunday, April 20, 2014

What I Overheard - Number Three

The Intrepid Eavesdropper Strikes Again

More Fascinating Snippets From Coffee Shops

I Wonder If They Can See Me?

As I prepare these snippets for this blog post, one thing keeps jumping out at me: A sense of unfinished business. As my eavesdropping alter-ego, I drop into and out of conversations, never hearing one in its entirety. But it's more than the fact that conversations are often clipped short. What's most disconcerting to me is that I usually have no clear idea what the people are talking about

To me, the uninvited outsider, it seems as if the conversations I hear meander around a subject, never mentioning the facts, never spelling out the details of the inciting incident, never explaining things so eavesdroppers can understand. But hey. I can't complain, can I? It comes with the territory. Having no idea what is going on adds to the mystery. With that in mind, here are today's snippets.

Snippet Number One:  "Oh, Mama, Please Don't Cry"

I'm in the Starbucks in the hospital lobby. Once again, it's raining. I'm in a cranky mood - my favorite table is occupied by a man writing on his laptop, a man who looks like he's settled in for a good long stay. I'm wrestling with a difficult scene of my novel. My hour-and-a-half of writing session is almost up. At any moment my husband will glide up silently behind me, touch my shoulder with a single finger, and startle the living daylights out of me. (The sneak.) 

It's his favorite way to pester me. I invariably jump. Sometimes I squeal. His favorite is when I jump and squeal. Because one of these days I intend to catch him in the dastardly act, I turn around in my seat every minute or so to check for his sneaky approach - and that's when I become aware of the woman.

She is pacing back and forth in the Starbucks, on her cell phone.

"Don't cry. Please don't cry," she says. She's upset.

Actually, it's more than that. She's beside herself, she's so upset. Her obvious distress is painful for me to watch. Obviously, this is not good fodder for my Intrepid Eavesdropper column, so I go back to my novel. I type two sentences. I glare at them. And then I delete them.

The woman passes by me again. "Oh, Mama, please, please don't cry."

I watch her from the corner of my eye. Poor thing, she's almost crying herself.

"I didn't mean it that way," she says so quietly I wouldn't have heard her if she wasn't passing right in back of me.

She walks out the door, and then in again.

"Mama, you know I'd never say that." She stands by the potted palm, sniffing. "...Just please don't cry."

She heads toward the door.

"I'm coming. Mama, I'm coming. Wait for me."

And then, she's gone.

I'm left feeling rather devastated on her behalf, wondering what on earth happened. Why was her Mama crying? What had the woman said that started such a cascade of tears? I'm still hearing her voice in my mind when it comes: the dreaded touch on my shoulder. I jump. I squeal. Once again I've had the living daylights startled out of me.

I'm Sorry, Mama

Snippet Number Two:  "It Never Ends, Does It?"

There are two college age women sitting side by side at the next table. They're studying vocabulary for a science class, going over words such as "en vitro" and "endoplasmic reticulum" and others that I do not catch.

The odd thing? Every minute or so, the women exchange laptops. As in: they pick them up, cords and all, and pass them across the table in a coordinated effort without saying a word about it. The table is small. It only barely accommodates the two laptops, the two mugs of mocha, and the little plates that hold the bits and pieces of their leftover cookies. The passing of laptops is not a big production for the women. They it...and continue typing away and studying as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

"Are you going home for Easter?" asks the one with her hair in a bundled-up ponytail. They're between vocabulary words.

Without missing a beat, they switch laptops.

"Uh-uh," says her friend, the one with the long strawberry blonde hair. "Are you?"

"No. But my Mom is making me an Easter basket anyway. Even though I'm not going to be there."

They switch laptops.

"Aw. That's so sweet!" Ponytail Girl says. "I never got Easter baskets." She types something, frowns, types some more. "Here's a new one. What is the behavior of (insert big scientific word) when under the influence of (insert a second big scientific word)? What's that again? Do you remember?"

"Um. Yes. It's (insert third big scientific word). Hey. Your touch pad is seriously f*cked up."

"I know."

They switch laptops.

"It never ends, does it?" says Strawberry Blonde.

My ears perk up. Are they talking about the constant switching of their laptops? Is that what never ends? But I am no more clued in by the rest of the conversation.

"I finished this one," Ponytail Girl picks up cookie crumbs with the tip of her finger. "But I have four more to go."

"I have five. Shit."

They switch laptops.

I'm frustrated over here at the next table. I'm none the wiser, and they're not helping me! What is it that never ends? She has five of what left? Does it have something to do with passing their laptops back and forth? Are they playing a game as they do their homework? I'm going insane over here, but I force myself to follow my self-imposed rules of listen, watch, record...but don't ask, don't get involved.

They switch laptops again and again, and again. I never do figure out what is going on. And then it all stops. Inexplicably and without discussion. Everything goes quiet at the next table. No more vocabulary words. No more switching laptops. The show is over.

Women with Laptops

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