Over the years society’s taboos have changed. What was once frowned upon has become acceptable. However, some things still stay forbidden or at least are considered declass. Once it was considered in bad taste to stare at people…now people watching is an acceptable hobby. Now I am not saying that folks have not people watched forever, they were just more discrete about it. Can’t you just imagine one Neanderthal talking to another and being catty about the length of a fur shift?
But I digress. I know you can’t wait to hear my secret. Well here it is.
I am deeply ashamed. Actually I’m not…I do it in public places and my logic is as follows: If you don’t want to share your conversation, don’t talk so loudly. Now I am not particularly fond of one-sided cell phone conversations. They can be irritating and generally you don’t hear anything of major interest. But that is a rant for another day. I am talking about those conversations or snippets that you hear in restaurants or any other crowded place. Sometimes it can just be something like the best place to get ice cream in a touristy town, but other times it is more meaty.
Here is one of my favorites. It happened about thirteen years ago in a little seafood place in Pennsylvania. My then fiancé and I were sitting in a booth in downstairs section of the restaurant. You know the kind of place. Good food, kind of dim, going for the ambience, but never quite making it. We really liked the place and went there for dinner relatively often.
There was a group sitting in the booth across from us – two couples. I would guess they were about seventy and nicely dressed. They were enjoying their dinners and chatting. One of the men in the group dominated the conversation. He spoke clearly and given the fact that we were about three feet away, I didn’t even have to strain to hear. The conversation started with speeders in “his” gated community. Ironically, this community was where my fiancé was living, so my ears really perked up. This gentleman went on and on how often he called the police and the homeowners’ association to complain and how evil these people were. Now don’t get me wrong, you really shouldn’t speed in residential areas, but I had never notice a major problem. The way this guy was talking, I got the impression that the militia would be called if you so much as plucked a dandelion from his lawn, let alone drove two miles over the speed limit. None of the other members of his party got a word in except for maybe a grunt of agreement.
By this time, I am thinking okay, the dude is a blowhard and not someone I really am enamored with, but to each his own. Then the conversation (or should I say monolog) shifted. He moved on to “bad behavior” at the community center. He spoke graphically and at length about a young man who was acting rambunctiously at the pool and who got what he deserved. The youth was jumping in the pool. The rules say no jumping. Bad kid, bad kid. Apparently, the lad did a face plant and came up bleeding copiously with an imprint of the pool tile on his forehead. Lovely dinner conversation, it was a blow by blow of each and every drop of blood that flew, the depth of the tile dent and how the kid deserved it.
So I am sitting there, with my guy and I loose it. Normally with my eavesdropping, I can remain stoic and hidden. This conversation was so inappropriate and the guy was so much a caricature of a domineering, self-absorbed critic that I started giggling. That became contagious and soon the two of us were doing some non-stop laughing at the table. I couldn’t stop. I know it wasn’t polite and that speeding and gore are not funny topics, but there it was.
We got the evil eye from across the way. I suspect the next time they went out for dinner the monolog focused on how rude people can be laughing in restaurants.
What can I say? I eavesdrop.
Have you overheard anything good lately?