Friday, November 07, 2008

Weekend Assignment #241: Talk of the Town

I had my flag flying this Election Day.

Weekend Assignment #241: It's not uncommon to overhear snippets of strangers' conversations in grocery stores, restaurants, at the gym, at the park and in other places people gather. We may even have conversations with strangers ourselves, especially when sharing in some common experience. Tell us what you've been hearing - or, if you prefer, some interesting bit of eavesdropping you recall from some time ago.

Extra Credit: Do you ever eavesdrop on purpose?

I have to say, the last time I heard so much animated political discussion as I've encountered recently was in 1974 at the height of Watergate. The last two days I've witnessed expressions of great joy, and a few of fear and resentment. My favorite recent snippet:
Woman at dog park: "...said, 'I just told you I'm pregnant, and you keep going on about Obama. If you could just...'"

People at the dog park have a lot to say. The dogs, not so much.

Wearing my two Obama shirts for most of the past week, I've had a number of comments addressed to me directly. A woman in her sixties at the dog park saw my shirt and said "Right on!" A professor showed me electoral maps from past elections in a newspaper he was reading, and told me that the only state that went Democratic in all of the last seven elections was Minnesota. A Safeway customer ahead of me in line claimed that he had met Barack Obama several times, because his dad knew Obama "quite well." Even after I switched to a Doctor Who shirt, the kid at the Safeway deli asked who I voted for, and was pleased with my answer.

They got me!

And today I wore my Obama shirt and a few of my buttons to the doctor's office. The visit is precautionary; I'm having a symptom that almost certainly means my hormones are temporarily out of whack from stress, but could, in a worst case scenario, mean something more serious. I had a good time getting painfully poked in my arm and on the backs of both hands by two medical assistants trying to get a vial of blood out of me. They eventually succeeded, and I'll have the result next week. I don't know what I'll do if it doesn't show that everything is fine. With no health insurance, I can't afford to get a biopsy if it proves necessary, and I sure as heck can't afford to be diagnosed with a preexisting condition, and therefore not be able to get insurance when I'm employed again. Still, my doctor is fairly sure it won't come to that.

Anyway, a woman in the waiting room, approximately age 60-something, was there with a man age 80-something. She was pleased with my shirt, and came over to read my buttons. We chatted happily about the election, and she expressed her annoyance at the passage of Prop 102 (the anti-gay marriage amendment). She said that attitudes are sure to change as more people get to know individual gays in their community and discover that they're "just people." (Ironically, as I was typing that last sentence, someone on tv was saying the same thing.)

Even as I waited alone in the exam room, I heard more chatter than usual through the walls, including, from the next room,
"...Robert Kennedy Junior...."
Another overheard snippet is an oldie but goodie, dating back to Clarion '77, the writer's workshop where I met John. We were in the dining hall when one of the non-Clarionites at a nearby table was heard asking,
"New football come in yet?"
Maybe you had to be there. But for us, it was emblematic of the contrast between the Clarionites, who were of course all intellectually engaged, funny and all-around great people, and the other students, whom we classed with a football player once described by Thurber: "...while he was not dumber than an ox, he was not any smarter." Yes, we were that arrogant.

On the extra credit, I do sometimes listen in on purpose if people are being reasonably loud in a public place. I kind of consider eavesdropping a skill that fiction writers do well to develop, because it helps with dialogue and characterization. But I confess I'm often oblivious to conversations that John is monitoring at a restaurant (back when we could afford restaurants).

Your turn! Tell us of something funny or interesting you've heard from the mouths of strangers, whether it was recently or long ago. Write it up in your blog along with a link back here, and leave a link to your entry in the comments below. I'll be back in a week with a roundup of your responses. Speaking of which:

For Weekend Assignment #240: Ooh, Scary! I asked whether you've ever been genuinely scared in a spooky or fun-scary situation. I gather that like me, most folks have been too caught up in the chills and thrills of Election Day to pay much attention to anything else this week. Our stalwart Mike is the only one who favored us with his remembrance of scares past. Click the link for the full post:

Mike said...

Now, I was scared of the dark as a kid. I remember when my mom used to make me get something out of the basement I would run as fast as I could. I didn't want anything to catch me. I think that is how I became a good runner later in track. Running from monsters everyday gets you into good shape.

That's it for tonight! I hope you'll take the time to participlate this week, as things start to get back to normal. If you don't normally listen in on strangers' conversations, I hope you'll do it this week--discreetly, of course. Write about it in your blog or journal, and include a link back here. Then leave a link to your entry in the comments below. I'll be back in a week to highlight the results.



barrettmanor said...

Wow, I've not been out much lately. A cold will do that. So no eavesdropping tales for me this week. Unless I manage to think of something in the next few days.

Hope you're doing better.

just me said...

I do hope everything comes back ok on your blood work.
I like your flag picture.

Scobberlotcher said...

I didn't actually eavesdrop, but I collected the responses to several party guests after I was introduced as "a writer." There were several varied and humorous comments and I blogged about them today. What I learned? - Adults say the darndest things.

Florinda said...

I can't say I've overheard much interesting stuff lately, but did I let that stop me from a Weekend Assignment post? No, I have one anyway.

Karen Funk Blocher said...

Adding Scobberlotcher's link for the convenience of all:

Mike said...

I didn't go into specifics, soI don't get in trouble, but here you go!