Slice of Life Tuesday: Whatever happened to eavesdropping???

Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers   

At the end of last Saturday’s Reunion at Teacher’s College , I dragged my weary self over to a pastry shop for coffee and cake with my daughter.  I hadn’t had a thing to eat since 6:30, when I had grabbed a granola bar as I was heading out the door to catch the train to New York.  You pause to eat at your peril on such days at TC – the price of taking a detour to the cafeteria for a sandwich could be losing a seat in one of Lucy Calkins’ workshops…not worth it.
So, by the time I arrived at this pastry shop,

I was ready for a totally decadent slice of something and a very large cup of coffee.  It took a while for my daughter  (never punctual under the best of circumstances) to arrive, so I settled to enjoy my hard earned treats…and that’s when I noticed that every single kid (all undergrads and grad students) was plugged into his or her  Macbook – earphones hooked up and eyes trained on the screen.  This explained why the place was so quiet for a Saturday afternoon! 
Nursing my coffee in that quiet, I had to admit to myself that I missed not having the opportunity to eavesdrop on anyone.  As a writer and a writing teacher, I practice what I preach to my kids – listen to the world around you, it will inform your writing.  I love noting snatches of conversations, the way people phrase things, how personalities are revealed in conversations. 
Sitting in that quiet, I thought back to memorable “eavesdropping opportunities:

  • at a similar cafe in Paris, an ancient couple holding hands across the table, rapt in a passionate conversation about something – I’ve used that scene in many variations in my writing pieces
  • a young mother telling her little boy all about the grandfather who was about to visit for the holidays – I’d like to think that my kids will speak of me in such a manner when the time comes
  • many conversations about travels and books and significant others – some nugget of writing stuff buried in each
  • Gloria Steinem at “Alice’s Teacup” discussing a contribution she was making to some scholarship fund, and then passing along a VERY BIG CHEQUE – this was one of those times when I was so bowled over by the identity of the person I was eavesdropping from that I had trouble actually listening to what was being said…for the longest time, I just sat there thinking, “I am sitting RIGHT NEXT TO GLORIA STEINEM!!!”

Mercifully, my daughter arrived before too long, and soon we were deep into our own conversation – not an eavesdropper in sight!!

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8 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Whatever happened to eavesdropping???

  1. I love this piece. Great observation. Usually we welcome the peace and quiet to let our thoughts sink in . . . but it is hard to eavesdrop when everyone is plugged in!!! Love the memories that you thought about while waiting. Thanks for sharing!

  2. We just returned from a weekend trip and you are right; there was hardly any conversation except from those ordering at the front of the place. Everyone had a laptop or smart phone out, looking down and/or tapping away. I enjoyed your observation, the way you led into it, tired but content now that pastries are allowed, and then your memory of other times.

  3. It puts me in mind of the commercial with the teen saying something like "my parents only have 11 friends on facebook. I have 300!" And the picture shows the teen alone in her room texting a friend, and her parents out riding bikes, hiking, etc. with friends…this social networking is ending up a bit antisocial!

  4. Your writing was thought provoking.Your post makes me think of long and quiet bus trips and wondering what goes on in the lives and heads of the other passengers. It also makes me think that even though we can't eavesdrop the conversations the lives of people are often available for x-rays on internet. Thank you for sharing.

  5. As someone who still shushes her husband at dinner in order to hear the juicy details of a nearby conversation, I can completely connect to this piece. I remember bizarre snippets of conversations and I am so relieved to know others do too!

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