Saturday, November 11, 2006

What You Say Can and Will Be Used

From the time they were small, my kids knew. We'd be in a public setting, usually a restaurant, and they would take one look at me and say, "Mom, you're doing it, aren't you?" I always was. I am a shameless eavesdropper. No, not to my kids' phone conversations, not standing with my ear to a cup against a wall. But I am a writer in my soul, and the reality is, people talking in public are telling stories.

I possess the ability to sit in an eating establishment, listen to every conversation at every table around me, and still manage to converse with my family. It's an art, really. You just have to keep your ears pricked for interesting words, then hone in on that particular exchange until it ceases to be useful and/or engrossing. My husband will sometimes even nod to people across the room, whose dialogue can't be detected, and ask "What's their story?" Then I will have to resort to lip reading and body language to figure it out. If I can't decipher, I'll make up something. My powers are not limiting to dining. I am also quite adept at malls.

Sometimes it's easy. People will speak loudly and you can't avoid hearing. I was checking out at a video store. A cell phone rang at the back, then a woman was yelling, apparently at a soon to be ex-somebody. She strode to the front of the store during this time. When she was near the exit, I (and everyone else, including my young daughter) heard: "What the (bad word) did you expect? What the (bad word) would you do if you (worse word) walked in on me (unmentionable word) your best friend?" She slammed out the door. The woman who was checking me out never missed a beat, kept scanning movies, didn't look or even raise her eyebrows. As soon as the betrayed girlfriend left, the clerk said, deadpan, "That's why those things should be stuck to the wall."

We were sitting at IHOP after Florida got hit with three hurricanes. Four college age kids were in the booth next to us. One of them asked if Orlando was on the Atlantic or Pacific side of the state. Well, let's see, Orlando isn't on a coast. If you are in Florida, there is the Atlantic Ocean, Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, a couple thousand miles of land, and THEN the Pacific Ocean. Not much you can do with that discourse, other than use it in a blog post or write a dissertation on the abject inadequacy of our education system.

In closing, the inspiration for this post came tonight when we were dining at our favorite Mexican eatery. To paraphrase Lewis Black, if you think about this very long, your head will explode. Okay, ready? "Do you want your cat's ashes back in the box?" Don't say I didn't warn you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow that's quite a talent. I wish I had it. I tend to start to listen and tune out who I'm with. Not so good.

Everyone has an interesting story. That's why I blog, and read blogs!

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

I knew it was not you that used the bad words. Your old bedroom in Duluth is about ten feet from ours, and all we ever heard was sweet words with an occasional moan. Your not the only one that listens!!

7:39 PM  
Blogger Mom Thumb said...

heather - I think the older your kids get, the better you get at listening to other stuff over their noise. I've done this my whole life, so my kids and hubby didn't actually get in the way of it. But you are so right about reading and writing blogs. I love the stories.

bill - I remember one summer night with both our windows open ten feet apart. You and Lois were talking about something you were doing the next day and I hollered over, "Hey, some of us are trying to sleep here!" There was a long pause and I don't even remember what you said, but I think poor Lois had to sleep with the window closed for awhile.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

I knew I should not have tried to out smart you---

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Jess said...

Mom, you warped my innocent little mind by teaching me your talent. I do it, too. But unlike you, I have yet to compile all the weird things I've heard in an interesting fashion. You should make a part two! :)
And Bill - an occasional moan?? I'm going to pretend you mean during the middle of the day when she accidentally spilled her Diet Coke on the floor...

2:50 PM  
Blogger Mom Thumb said...

jess - yes, that is one of the ways I warped you. You and I have heard some interesting things together. There may be a part 2 in the future. And of course that's what Bill meant.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Harmonica Man said...

Wow - it's like you're one of the Heroes!

Charli and I love to "people watch" and imagine what their lives are all about. We're totally nosey that way.

Oh, and that's quite enough talk about moaning - especially from my DAD! Ewww.

9:14 PM  

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