As I mentioned in my last blog, Maeve Binchy once stayed on a bus to eavesdrop the remainder of a conversation. I love listening to conversations myself – especially those glorious one-sided mobile phone conversations where one has to imagine the other side for one’s self. And just to make it easier for us eavesdroppers, people tend to talk louder on a mobile phone. The other day, while on holiday, I was walking along the promenade at Broad Haven when I heard a young girl’s voice loudly proclaiming: “I love you loads and loads too…” Nothing extraordinary about this until she added in fine and full voice: “…and the sex was great as well!” Now I’m not someone who is easily shocked but I was rather surprised (and secretly delighted!) that she should want to share such intimacies with the whole of Broad Haven in such an unselfconscious way!
At work, especially in open-plan offices, people often dash into meeting rooms to take their personal calls in privacy. Others misguidedly rush for the stairwells. Do they not realise how far voices can carry in a stairwell? I was moving between floors the other day when a voice drifted up from below saying: “Do you think we did the right thing telling him last night? I felt awful about it afterwards.” I never did discover who the owner of that voice was but I spent the rest of the day wondering who the unfortunate bloke was and what he’d been told that made the speaker feel so bad about it?
And finally, on a crowded street in Cardiff, a young Asian girl obviously forgot her surroundings when she yelled emotionally into her phone: “I don’t care what he wants, Mehmet, it’s my life and I’ll do what I want with it, not what he wants!” I felt like giving her a spontaneous burst of applause for that line but then she would have known I was listening! What might she have been talking about? An arranged marriage with someone she didn’t fancy perhaps? Or is that too obvious and stereotypical of me? Whatever it was, it certainly fired my writer’s imagination and prompted me to go home and write a short story about an overheard snippet of conversation.
But be warned! It’s true that eavesdroppers don’t always hear good things. I was in a hospital day centre earlier this week, having had to starve myself for a day and a half, for a colonoscopy procedure. The two nurses, oblivious to my hunger, were calmly and coolly discussing the merits of the beef burgers they ate the night before… That should teach me not to tune in – but I know it won’t!