Sunday 2 August 2009

Too Much is Not Enough

How many of us have listened in to other people’s conversations? All of us I suspect.

I remember sitting in the hospital car park while my husband went in for tests. I was too much of a wimp to go in with him because it was too soon after my mum had died there.

It was a pleasant day and I had the window open and my notebook at the ready waiting for inspiration to strike, when manna from heaven came floating in the window.

The man in the car next to me was on his mobile phone. I have his conversation (up to a certain point) written exactly word for word somewhere if only I knew where to find it.

He was having a row with his wife. Something about putting the dog in kennels while they went on holiday. It transpired that the time he had booked off for their holiday wasn’t the same as the date she’d booked and of course it was all her fault!

I even got some of her side of it as he frequently repeated what she said with sneering disbelief.

The row got more and more heated and there I was with one ear hanging out of the window (I have very big ears) writing every word down . . .

Then it went quiet.

I looked up, pen poised and I’m sure I gave him an impatient look that said, “Go on . . .” Maybe I even said it. Who knows? He glared at me and his window slid up. That is the certain point where I was forcibly ejected from the conversation.

He carried on ranting with the occasional furtive glance in my direction – and then he moved his car to another space. He wasn’t using the hospital – just their car park. I think he’d pulled in there for the sole purpose of shouting at his wife.

That is the moment I realised that I had an obsession. Looking back I think it was a terrible thing to do, but then again . . . the way he spoke to his wife was what was terrible. I may have been making notes, but I was also cheering her on and silently urging her to take the holiday he'd left her to arrange and leave him behind.

I haven’t used any of that conversation. It was too much which meant for my purposes it was not enough. A snippet overheard, an intriguing sentence, a strange question – I find my stories there. But I'm sure I've used him a few times - arrogant, spoiling for a fight, ready to blame anyone but himself when things go wrong.

Or have I got him wrong? Was he overworked and tired? No, that's hindsight talking. I was there, I heard him and my impression wasn't of someone overworked and tired. And perhaps there is a story there, or more than one. Hm, perhaps I should be writing that instead of blog-a-logging . . .


  1. What an intriguing story. Personally, I think the woman should have gone on holiday, taken the dog with her and left the husband in kennels.

  2. Other people can be so fascinating and sometimes you just can't help overhearing.

    As for 'arrogant, spoiling for a fight...' - I've met a good few people like that in my time. The least he deserves is to be used as inspiration for a story.


  3. Definitely material for a story or two there, from different view points! I know what you mean about too much information though. Snippets work best for me as they set the imagination off :o)

  4. Yes! Write the story, Teresa! We all want to know the ending, now! (Does she leave him? Does she suddenly snap back and tell him what she thinks of him? Does she divorce him and marry the dog?). I'm sure your ending would be great! x

  5. My husband did that - the booking the wrong holiday week off, not the shouting at me! It was only when he asked me why I hadn't started packing (I do tend to start early!) that he realised we weren't going away the following week. We agreed it was a misunderstanding and left it at that - and fortunately he managed to change it - but I know that really we both thought it was the other ones fault.

    I don't think you got the man in the car park wrong though - he sounds like a right pig!

  6. Sometimes I do accidentally overhear conversations (usually it's deliberate)

    A few days ago, I heard a girl telling her mates about the tattoo she was just about to have done that featured her boyfriend's name. They were concerned about what would happen when (not if) the pair broke up. She'd thought of that and was going to have a small one in outline only that would be easy to cover with an eagle.

    I haven't thought of a story for her yet, but I'm sure I will.

  7. Elizabeth McKay2 August 2009 at 22:46

    I love being on a bus or train and tuning in to the conversation of the people behind me. I call it research. There have been times when I've very nearly turned round and put in my tuppence-worth and then remembered just in time that it wouldn't be a Good Idea. Mobile Man sounds like someone I know. Please write him a really horrible ending Teresa.

  8. oh teresa I love this story I can just see it!

  9. Great idea, Helen!

    I’m sure I’ve killed him off a few times Suzanne – him or someone just like him!

    I’m starting to look at it afresh, Karen!

    Thanks Olivia! You know I reckon we could all write about it and we’d all come up with different stories!

    Glad your husband managed to change his holiday, Bernadette! Yes you’re right; the guy was a right pig! If I’d been the right person I might even have gone over and told him what I thought of him instead of hiding in my car with a notebook (I can see myself now, snatching his mobile phone and grinding it under my heel – oh I wish!)

    Sounds excellent story material, Patsy! My husband had my name tattooed on his arm just after we started going out together so he got stuck with me!!

    That struck a chord with me, Elizabeth – you get so engrossed in these conversations that it’s easy to forget you’re not actually part of it don’t you! I think I may revive him and write him a suitably gruesome end!

    I can still see him, Lacey, sitting in his car – nasty sweaty ranting man!

  10. My best eavesdropping moment was in the supermarket when I overheard a man on his mobile, telling his boss that he was bedridden and too ill to come in to work. His trolley was laden with bags of crisps, several crates of beer and economy burgers so there was probably a cup final on the telly or something!

  11. You've got me earwigging conversations now, Teresa, lol. I was coming home from work on the bus today when I heard this bloke speak with a strange accent. Where I live, you either speak with a Welsh accent or maybe Portugese or Polish if you work at the town's meat factory.

    Anyhow, it was a while before I realised he was Canadian. He kept saying things like 'Back in Canada,' etc. He seemed to be boasting to a young man next to him about taking pot shots at crows with particular type of gun and shooting bears!

    He really came across as an obnoxious character.

    The strangest thing happened when we neared the town. He said with a twang, "Here's the university!!" Then he slipped into a Welsh accent and said 'No, it's a college."

    I am guessing that maybe once upon a time he lived here but has been overseas for a while and was showing off.

    An interesting/arrogant character though.

  12. I heard a brilliant mobile conversation the other day, while I was walking along. The girl on the phone just ahead of me, so for a while I slowed down to match her pace. Well....

    It turns out she had just split from her husband, because, when they first got married, they didn't have sex because they were in a bedsit with his two children. They were in this bedsit for about 8 weeks until they got a flat. During this time, the husband had made the situation his excuse to sleep with her best friend and chief bridesmaid.

    As the conversation went on, it came to light that the person on the other end of the phone WAS the chief bridesmaid! I dived into a shop doing my best not to giggle.

    But the funniest one I have heard was on a bus one Wednesday. Two women behind me.

    Woman 1. What's the date on Friday

    Woman 2. I don't know, but it's the 27th on Thursday...

  13. If he was just using the hospital car park while he was on the phone, then he was probably illegally parked (i.e. not bought a ticket); perhaps someone should have arrived and clamped him.
    I shall now read your stories with renewed interest, looking for nasty men in car parks.

  14. That’s a good one, Sue! Would have been funny if one of those announcements had come over the tannoy (but not for him though!)

    What a horrible bloke, Lynette! Shooting bears and boasting about it? Ugh! I bet the accent was put on for show.

    My jaw dropped over that one, Teresa!! And the dates quote – that made me laugh!

    Very true Pierre – he didn’t have a ticket. The more I think about him the more I don’t like him!

  15. I can't believe you all overhear such interesting conversations.
    My husband and I went for a long walk along the seafront on Sunday and I hoped I might catch a little snippet which would inspire an idea, but the most memorable thing I heard was a woman saying to another 'I think she wears incontinence pads all the time now'.
    No kidding. Not exactly inspirational, was it?

  16. Just reminded me of an incident that kinda backfired...It was when I worked full-time in my husband's shop, I had a few stories pubbed in the Sexy Shorts charity anthologies. If you don't know about them, the stories were very tame - in fact the one's I had pubbed had also appeared in Woman's Weekly, Woman, that kind of thing.
    Anyway, the local paper and 2 nationals got hold of the news and ran a piece on me. They reported that I listened in to customer's conversations and then went home and turned them into hot and steamy stories. So for ages our customers thought they were the fodder for soft porn stories...which they were not! Well, maybe just now and again ;0)

  17. Why don't I ever hear such interesting conversations? Must be too much rushing around. Note to self - slow down.

  18. Susan - it would certainly be a challenge to use that in a story!

    Sue - I nearly choked laughing! Did any of your customers offer you juicy stories you might like to use?

    Yes, slow down, Juliet and get your ears flapping!