I love to eavesdrop.
I wish I were better at it. My friend Victoria can not only pick out individual conversations in a noisy room; she can even stay fully engaged in a conversation while listening to the one at the next table. Super-overhearing is one of the top 3 superpowers I’d pick, right after super-metabolism and super-wealth.
I did manage to hear a bunch of the conversation next to me at dinner tonight, which Steven and I ate at the bar of Gotham, a swanky-pants restaurant near our apartment. By conversation, I mean monologue — delivered by a 60-ish, bony woman who eats there a lot, to the 20-something suit unfortunate enough to sit next to her.
Here are some top snippets.
1) “I’m not going to waste my breath telling you about Viet Nam. Google it.”
2) “I travel the world creating lifestyles for people. Lifestyles that make other people say “WOW!”
3) “I sometimes think about living somewhere else. I’ve been invited to live all over the world. Switzerland, Hawaii…and I’ve been to Rome many, many times.”
4) “The people in my building used to be a friendly community. Now it’s all bankers, and they will take your laundry right out of the machine and leave it in a pile. That’s what bankers do.”
5) “My former boss is the world’s most famous architect. She won the equivalent of a Nobel Prize…for architecture.”
6) “I worked in the best restaurant in Soho, back when there were only two restaurants in Soho. And all the famous people came.”
7) “You’re very naive. You’re naive about Viet Nam, and you’re naive about Halliburton.”
8) “Make sure your phone is off because you don’t want anyone listening in on this conversation. The Halliburton people hacked into my computer because I’m an environmental activist.”
9) “You need to go see this play. The star is Sting’s wife. Do you know Sting, the musician? Well see this play. It will change. Your. Life. Google it.”
10) “I want you to keep this pamphlet. It will change. Your. Life.” (Text on pamphlet: “THE BUSINESS OF WELL-BEING AND HAPPINESS: A NEW PARADIGM”)
11) “I’m going outside for a moment because you’re really starting to scare me. You’re sounding very right-wing. Please tell them I’m not done eating.”
12) “…and by the way, the CIA did kill JFK.”
13) “I was going to invite you up for an after-dinner nightcap, but now I’m scared you’re too right-wing.”
Wow! Incredibly entertaining! That particular patron must be apart of a set of quintuplets, I swear I’ve met her kin several times.
Connie Bennett says
Oh, what a hoot!
That’s a VERY clever idea to create a blog post about this! They must have been on a blind date. Sounds like it bombed!
Thanks for sharing.
Lisa Lai says
Holy crap – I just found you by accident when a friend ‘liked’ this post on FB. Best accident ever. You’re awesome.
I love that kind of accident! Who was it? Glad you found Talking Shrimp, thanks for dropping by. And for saying I’m awesome.
Lisa Lai says
Max Daniels posted the like – I’m hoping a bunch of her friends clicked on it like I did. I love happy accidents.
Poor guy! Or did he maybe enjoy it?
Bizarrely, he seemed quite willing. He did ask for a dinner menu and commit to staying longer. Weird.
La….you totally have a hit show idea that needs to be made. The NYC version of Portlandia. I’m serious. And then there will actually be a 2nd show worth watching. 🙂 OOOOOh and remember all of the 80’s shows ended up having a “Going to Hawaii” episode?!!! This show will have a Bali episode. The 21st century version.
The “going to hawaii” episodes were a total precursor to this era’s “going to St Barths” episodes of Real Housewives.
But you’re right, it’s time for a Bali episode. Let’s just make it a reality show and send that lady with a bunch of people for her to torture.
Ames Starr says
HA. We live in Ubud, I’m subjected to overhearing such cringe-worthy convos all the freakin time! One hour in the the Yoga Barn cafe will provide you with enough fodder for several series!
David C Belgray says
Laura, what a great story! Could you bird-dog me for a day, and provide notes for my opus magnum?
Please remind me to tell you about my days as a
switchboard operator at the USO club at Temple
Emanuel during World War II.
Dad, why do I get the feeling that you’re not kidding about being a synagogue switchboard operator?
You’ve never asked me to bird-dog you before. Before I say yes, I’d better google it.
David C Belgray says
Just to clear the air, I wasn’t a synagogue switchboard operator. I was a USO switchboard operator – unpaid. My mother worked for the USO, and I would visit and play at the switchboard, connecting callers to
their “callees”. I was all of 10 years old.
This USO club used the Temple Emanuel premises.
I think this it’s the only place I’d be willing to admit, as a guy, that I enjoy a good eavesdrop too, and yes, mostly while I’m talking to someone else. It takes skill.
I have a completely different motive though, I usually do it when I’m at a gathering of friends, a party or something, and I want to k know if I’m missing out on a better conversation. “Dang, I should have been talking to that guy.” Then I’ll work my way over to that conversation somehow.
If I can get the person I’m talking with to join the other conversation with me, then it’s a win for everyone.
You may have something here. This could be a theme for a separate blog all by itself. “The Eavesdropper”. And just post overheard conversations. Looks like you could generate a huge following.
The worst is getting stuck in a boring conversation when you can hear the better one happening. I experience that all the time. It’s torture.
You are so funny! I try to eavesdrop, but I end up getting caught trying to read lips… and saying what I wish they would say out loud…it’s kinda like live action mad libs with a twang…Goggle IT!
I would love to learn to read lips. I knew someone who could do that, and she was my arch enemy – which was a very bad equation for shit-talking her.
Ash Ambirge says
This post just made me so fucking happy. THE END.
Thank you! It makes me so fucking happy that it makes you happy.
Hilarious! Overheard Heaven: http://www.overheardinnewyork.com/
That site is so addictive. Thanks, I think.
#4. If only that was the most evil thing bankers ever do.
Right? I’m convinced they’re the ones who take just one of your socks.
This made me laugh out loud. Reminded me of the conversation I overhead in a restaurant in Greece. Loud mouthed young lady shrieked: ‘WHO put black GRAPES on MY PIZZA??!!!’ She very politely got told they were olives. Not grapes. The rest of us diners snorted quietly with laughter.
P.s please send me that pamphlet. I too need to Change. My. Life.
Though, in fairness to the lady, even in Greece they shouldn’t assume you want olives on your pizza. On the other hand, if she did think it was fruit, it wouldn’t be any weirder on a pizza than pineapple.
HILARIOUS. My favorite thing about this is your last line about turning this over to Hal. OMG girl. Gotham sounds like the perfect content fodder for future posts. The perfect cesspool to cause instant gratitude for your friends and life (on several levels)! Can’t wait for your next “Overheard at Gotham…”
Yes – it’s totally the kind of restaurant where kooky regulars chat up unsuspecting bar patrons every night. I’m disappointed when I DON’T hear a conversation like that.
This. Is. Gold.
I’m always mortifying my bf when we’re out together because not only am I a terrible eavesdropper, but I’m also a terrible starer. If I can’t hear the conversation, I’m making up an imaginary one in my head.
Once when we were out for brunch there was a couple across the street having a fight and we got everybody on the patio in on trying to figure out what the story was.
I’m the worst starer. In fact, not 15 minutes ago, I got busted staring at someone on the street. I didn’t even know I was staring till he lurched at me with google-eyes, in a “whatchu lookin’ at” way.
A few years back, when I was at Lupa (a Mario Batali restaurant), there was a couple having sex right across the street. Everyone in the restaurant, including Mario, who happened to be eating a plate of lardo there that night, rushed to the window to watch and cheer them on.
The play with Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler, (which I believe is closing tonight), is a revival of The Exonerated, which I saw Friday night (but the part played by Sting’s wife was played by the brilliant Kathleen Chalfant). I primarily went to see Roger Waters from Pink Floyd reading one of the parts. I can’t say that it changed my life, but that’s mainly because I didn’t want it to.
If you don’t want your life changed, I’m not going to waste my breath telling you about Viet Nam.
I had a night like that in Ubud, Bali last May. I was eating alone at a very nice, classy restaurant, with my back to two women. Of the Seeker variety. You know, “Eat Pray Love”…yuppie yogis…. The whole conversation was, like yours, a monologue, with one woman just talking about all of her issues to the other. It sort of re-enforced my suspicion that a lot of these people are actually really lonely and looking for a) a way to get laid while b) validating it with some spiritual aspect. The two best (or worst) lines:
1) “I mean, I’m not a lesbian. I do like kissing girls though, but the other stuff not so much. But, I mean, if I were to have a threesome I would totally love for you to be the other woman, you’re really hot.
2) “I’ve been really horny lately. Like, I’m wet all the time.”
Now really…in a restaurant?!?! Sure, talk with your friends about what you will…but in a restaurant?! I was tempted to turn around and give her a “You know, you really need to get laid” kind of comment, but didn’t want to spoil my meal, which was a very tasty salad with pomelo and grilled shrimp. Not sure why I’m adding that tidbit…but it WAS a good salad.
I guess it’s a sign of the times, as cellphones now enable people to have intimate conversation in open places…and now that trend is getting moving off-line too?
Oh, and…8 and 12 are my favorites from your night.
I take it you didn’t want to be the guy in that threesome?
My other friend who spends a lot of time in Bali confirms that all you see in restaurants is girls with their beat-up copies of Eat, Pray, Love. They’re all looking to get laid, be spiritual, and eat so much pizza that they gain 20 lbs which they think they’ll easily work off *by* getting laid. Any guy who wants to get laid can just look for a chick reading Eat, Pray, Love.
I’m glad you consider it a talent. Jason finds it a vaguely insulting thing to do on date night. I actually can’t help it. I think the line about bankers and laundry should be the new Occupy Wall Street slogan!
Come on. When you go to the movies on date night, does he find it insulting that you watch the movie? This is the same thing. If there’s an amazing radio play going on at the next table, it’s basically rude NOT to listen.
Oh, wow. I would love to know their whole back story. Was this the first time they met? Was it a “you should really meet this person–it’ll be great for your network” kind of setup? Or perhaps a hopeful business venture? Or maybe a bizarre date arranged by friends?
I feel like this is fodder for some great short stories or comedic improv shows.
If I’m ever in Gotham, I’ll be on the lookout for the bony, 60-ish lady who does most of the (opinionated) talking.
It was definitely the first time they met. She started off two seats away from him and then sidled over. It was a bizarre date arranged by nothing he agreed to, except that he did willingly talk to her and accept her diatribes written on napkins.
Hilarious. Embarrassed to say I’m pretty good at eavesdropping while being in a conversation. It’s an odd talent. It has even made me consider the fact that I would be a good detective. But I also scare easily…so that, I always thought, could make that profession difficult for me.
I love the fact that she was going to ask the person up for a night cap. Would have been a complete conversation if she had mentioned the illuminati.
I also love that you recorded the conversation.
Just the phrase “night cap” alone, never mind the idea of it…is so Love Boat.
I’d like to amend my last comment. I’m going to Google Vietnam AND the play that Sting’s wife is in.
And keep the pamphlet!
You should have been an old fashioned telephone switchboard operator. I am going to google Viet Nam now.
Why don’t they hire for that anymore? It’s my dream job.