notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Eavesdropping

As I writer, it is perfectly acceptable, and practically a professional requirement, for me to eavesdrop.

How else would I know how teenagers whine, or families fight, or men flirt (yeah, I’ve been married THAT long) – in order to get it right in my stories?

Restaurants are especially good. Booths are best, because you can listen to the people behind you so inconspicuously. I listened to the complete story of a guy’s divorce that way once. It was terrific. (The story, not the divorce.)

Last year my husband and I were in one of the more prestigious restaurants in town to celebrate our anniversary. The weather was really bad, and the only other diners there were the actor Sam Waterston and his companion (wife, maybe…I have no idea.) But anyway, my husband was professing his love, and being quite romantic, so it was pretty much a bust as an eavesdropping occasion. I thought I heard “Woody Allen” in Mr. Waterston’s conversation, but I could hardly say to Hubby, “Shushh, I’m listening to the next table,” it being our anniversary and all.

But last night made up for all of that.

My husband and I had been out shopping, and stopped at a Chinese restaurant that we like. The food isn’t even all that good at this place. It’s just that about 20 years ago, an old friend of my husband’s called us out of the blue to say that he and an associate were in Connecticut on business, and asked us to join them for dinner.We met at this Chinese restaurant near their hotel. We had one of the most fun evenings we had ever had. We laughed ourselves silly that night, and now we can’t even remember what we were so silly about. I do remember a lot of wine. But 20 years later, we still like that restaurant. We call it Gus’s Chinese Joint.

So last night, we are eating at Gus’s Chinese Joint. My husband was quiet. He was tired and preoccupied. This is not a necessarily a bad thing if you like to eavesdrop.

A family was two booths down from us, but there was no one in between. I couldn’t see them well behind my husband’s generously sized head, but oh my, their conversation was Choice.

It was Mom and Dad and Son and Daughter, both of the kids around college age.  Mom and Dad and Son had very soft voices. I strained, but couldn’t really make out what they were saying.

But Daughter was clear and LOUD.  And her side of the conversation alone was enough. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more because I had to imagine what everyone else was saying, as I listened to only one-fourth of the dialog.

“Now that you are a JP and all,” said Daughter, “I suppose you will want to officiate at my wedding. If I ever have one.”

That sentence was pretty cool. I like to think she was addressing her mother.

And then the kicker.

I wouldn’t say she hollered. It was more of a very loud gasp.

“OMG!  You shaved your chest!  Why on earth would you shave your chest?????”

And just when I strained to hear how her brother would answer, her old man tore open his shirt Superman-style.

“Oh DAD!  That is so gross!!!!”

That fifty-something father of two had been manscaping. And he bared his chest in Gus’s Chinese Joint.

Daughter was shocked.

I like to think that Mom was laughing her ass off.

superman

**

PS – Amazon is offering the Kindle edition of my novel, JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED, for only 99 Cents this week.  A TOP 20 book in the category of Literary Humor – and it is! (Literary and Humorous, that is).  Click here to see more!

31 Comments

  1. What fun!

    I am actually always reluctant to speak to my husband in public in case I say something totally asinine. I cringe at the conversations of others coming out of movies and plays …

    So thanks for the reinforcement of my paranoia.

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    • Yes, someone is probably making a novel out of your most intimate conversations right now.

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      • The best thingI ever overheard was when I was walking in the park, and heard two guys talking about snakes. One said to the other — “and when you step on one, they never realize you don’t mean anything by it.” I nearly wet my pants …

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  2. so wish you got a photo of her face.

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  3. I love when you hear only a part of the conversation — makes you have to make the rest up! And what a story THAT makes! Good job!

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    • Can you just imagine the start of that conversation? That led Dad to say to his daughter, “I just shaved my chest.”

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  4. Mom was either laughing her ass off – which all of us could use at this age – or she was looking for another table to which she could escape.

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    • I like to think that she was laughing – delighted to have shocked her kids!

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  5. Ray G

    You left something out: did you get to see the “manscaping”? If so, did he look as good as George Reeves?

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    • No – didn’t see it at all, but I always thought that George Reeves was very creepy and very dough-y.

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      • Ray G

        Well, besides being off-topic, it just shows how clueless so many of we guys are concerning what ladies like.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. sassycoupleok

    Well you never know, maybe this couple are nudist and the kids don’t know. It’s very common for nudist couples to be completely bare or very well bodyscaped .

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  7. Dana

    The best thing I overhead, was a little girl, happily declaring: puppies bounce!

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    • I hope she meant they bounce AROUND, and not that they bounce when you drop them!!

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      • Dana

        Oh, no, I’m pretty sure she mean when they fall!

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  8. Priceless! I’m sure both kids were mortified. Years ago a friend of my mother’s was in a restaurant and overhead someone talking about my mom. The friend told my mom and I think she figure out who it was, the person knew my mom professionally (and obviously didn’t think highly of her at that moment). I always remember that when I’m at dinner with someone and they want to gossip.

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    • A good motto: Always assume that the subject of your gossip is in the next booth!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Please tell me your husband’s generously-sized head blocked the manscaping view.

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  10. Now there’s a mental image to conjure with! It really is the kind of thing best left to the imagination too. I’m not sure I’d liked to have witnessed the reality.

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    • I wish I had a better look at the daughter’s face though!

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s true. I do wonder a little what she was like.

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  11. Perfect!

    I always listen in. I simply can’t help myself.

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  12. Just stumbled upon this post but I love to eavesdrop and listen in. Cracks me up what people will say in such a public place. I also noticed that people like to tell me stuff out of the blue that I really don’t want to know. A little TMI – Too Much Information for my liking. Perhaps it is my hairy chest, people think I’m a gently gorilla or something?

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    • Some people just seem to evoke true confessions – my husband is one. But eavesdropping is essential for a writer – how else would I have been able to write dialog for a teenager – when I haven’t been one decades, and don’t have one of my own?

      Like

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