“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ~Ernest Hemingway
I wholeheartedly agree with Hemingway on that point. Being a writer, I am a shameless eavesdropper. The best way to get a feel for the rhythms of natural speech is by listening when I am not a participant in the conversation. I have a distinct advantage in this area because I live in a busy city. Conversations are always swirling around me: at the coffee shop, on the subway, through the closed window of someone’s apartment. (Just kidding!) (Not really!) I can’t not eavesdrop.
Here are a few of the gems I overheard this week.
- Boy: But I want to sit doooowwwwnnn!
Grandmother (mostly to herself): Oh, hush now. You got young legs. My legs are old and tired. When you old and tired, then you can sit. Complaining to me about sitting when you as good as new. I got things to complain about. My back aches and my feet ache. And I got the gout. Boy, when you got the gout you can sit. Count your lucky stars you don’t have the gout.
- Twenty-something woman talking on her cell phone: I’m just exhausted, like really stressed. (Audible sigh) I know I just need to slooww down…I dunno…If I could just get some kind of disease. Not like a really nasty one or anything. Something where I could just sleep for like a week…Right, like mono. You know anyone who has that?
- On the 2 train, morning commute…a legally blind man sits with his seeing-eye dog resting comfortably at his feet. The dog is wearing an orange vest and a harness.
Woman: Oh, what a lovely dog! She’s gorgeous.
Man: Thank you. The woman reaches down to pet the dog. Please don’t pet her.
Woman: Why not? I’d really like to pet her.
Man: She’s working now.
Woman: She’s not working. She’s just sitting there. Then she says to the dog: Whuz the pwobwem wit a wittle pat, huh?
Man: She knows that when she has this vest on, she’s working and she can’t be distracted.
Woman: What if you take the vest off? Then can I pet her? To the dog: Take tat wittle west off.
Man, getting frustrated: I can’t take the vest off now. She’s working.
Woman: But I’d really like to pet her.
Another man: Hey buddy, this is Fulton Street. You wanted to know when we got to Fulton Street.
Man, grabbing the dog’s harness and dashing off the train: Thank goodness.
- Australian girl: Mommy, why do they call it New York? New. York. What’s so new about it?
- A woman is riding the 2 train with a large suitcase
Woman:Excuse me. Does this train go to JFK? Because I think I…
Woman # 1 with super long fingernails: Gurrrl! You on the wrong train.
Guy #1:What you got to do is get off at Atlantic, transfer to the D going uptown. Uptown, you hear me? Then take the N or the R…
Guy #2:The D?! What are you talkin’ about? Lady, don’t take the D. Listen. I’m gonna make this real simple. Stay on this train to Franklin. Take the S. That’s S like suave, if you know what I mean. Now the S will get you over to the A…
Guy #1:Man, the S doesn’t go to the A. I’m tellin’ you.
Guy #3:This is all wrong. She just needs to backtrack to Fulton Street.
Guy #1 and Guy #2 simultaneously:Fulton Street!?!
They continue like this for three more stops.
Woman #2:Where are you tryin’ to go, miss?
Woman with the suitcase, visibly flustered:The airport?
Woman #2, shakes her head:Naw. You can’t get there from here. You shoulda taken a cab.
Have you overheard any interesting conversations lately?
Have a great weekend, everyone!