May 18

Coffee Shop Chronicles: Overheard Conversations

FullSizeRender (2)Starbucks

Livonia, MI

Have you ever just sat in a coffee shop and listened to conversations?

This can be done anywhere really: in a park, on a bus, at a college football game, a kids’ softball game, in a lunchroom, at your coworker next cubicle over.  Anywhere.  What does that say about them?

I’ve listened everywhere, partially because of boredom, partially out of curiosity.  Dad always enjoyed being in the Now, and that’s why I’ve always enjoyed people-watching and people-listening.

I’m sipping my Clover Reserve coffee, the West Java Preanger while it’s still available. What are people saying here, today?

What’s This Song?

A guy finishes humming and says, “Do you know what that’s from?” The woman with him is shaking her head.  “It’s from the movie the Officer and…the one with Richard Gere.”

ME:  It’s An Officer and a Gentleman, geez.  You don’t even know the title?  I didn’t hear that tune in it at all.  Maybe you should try harder.  Are you trying to impress this girl, like on a date, or is she a friend who tolerates you?  Does she know movies?  Does she care?  She just tapped some sugar into her coffee and walked away.  You, you’re dumping about…is that four or five packets of sugar…in your coffee?  You’re both staying here, and you have to-go cups?  Don’t you see my for-here mug beside you as I mix my Splenda and steamed 2% milk?  I’m saving a cardboard tree.  You’re drinking that coffee black.  Ugh.

A Guy and His Buddy

A guy walks in, shakes his buddy’s hand.  “Free car?” the guy says, a smile in his voice.  I don’t hear his buddy’s response, but the guy says to him, “You can get a car for a reasonable price of a truck.”

ME: Sounds like buddy’s in a world of trouble.  Is he poor?  Is he desperate?  Why does he want a truck, or is that something the guy wants?  I’m thinking pickup truck–I mean, what else is there?–but buddy’s got a jean jacket and a laptop.  He doesn’t look the truck type.  The other guy, he has that sauntering attitude around his beefy self.  I could see him wanting a truck but stuck driving daddy’s Caddy.  Or am I just thinking of my ex-boyfriend’s lawyer-to-be friend from those oh-so-many years ago?

About Bill

“I went to Bill’s class on Friday, and it wasn’t filled.”

ME:  Is he a college student?  Probably, since it’s around 1:30 pm.  That’s too early for high school to be out.  What does Bill teach, and why isn’t he filling up his classroom?  Does the girl he’s talking to know the class or Bill?  Is he not a popular teacher?  Could it be that the subject isn’t fun?  Does the class happen at an awkward time?  As a college student, I couldn’t handle morning classes.  The 9:00 am ones were tolerable, but the 8:00 am classes were too much, too early.  At least you’re there to support your friend.

What does this say about me and interpreting them?  Some of this stuff is so perfect that, as the cliché goes, I couldn’t write or make up this stuff.

I feel a little jealous.  I’m left out of the loop.  Something cool is going on, and I’m not a part of it.  Why am I not a part of it all?  Maybe that comes from being picked last for sports teams in grade school.

If I was curious before, I’m more curious now.  There’s the context behind the above comments, and I’d love to know more about them.

Listen.

11 comments

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    • Sue Remisiewicz on June 5, 2016 at 5:24 pm
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    I’ll have to try making up my own context next time I overhear conversation. Sounds like fun!

    1. That really expands your creativity as writer–you can’t make this stuff up!–and it’s just a hoot to eavesdrop on others’ bizarre lives. 🙂

    • Anonymous on May 21, 2016 at 5:42 pm
    • Reply

    Clover reserve coffee? Why won’t it be available? Does it taste like clover? Did you have to reserve it? Why are you sipping? Is it too hot?

    1. Ah, it’s a special type of coffee. Exclusive, chichi. To solve the mystery and discover if you’re worthy enough, find a Clover-Reserve store yourself. Enter and sip if you dare.

    • Barbara Pattee on May 18, 2016 at 9:56 pm
    • Reply

    Overhearing the conversations of people in public places can provide material for your next story.

    1. I know, right! I recall hearing two women in a bathroom talking about nearby towns and streets. Those were great character names. But all I had was toilet paper to jot those ideas down on…so I didn’t….

        • Kelly Bixby on June 9, 2016 at 1:28 pm
        • Reply

        Now there’s a funny scene! I’m already writing it . . . in my mind, for now. 😳

    • Anonymous on May 18, 2016 at 6:48 pm
    • Reply

    Very good piece. I myself enjoy speculating on the meanings behind random bits of dialogue. Well done. 🙂

    1. Thank you! I’ve been listening to overheard conversations for years. Try it in a mall food court sometime—WHEW!!

  1. Is this the Starbucks on Haggerty Road? I love that location. It’s constantly buzzing with activity.

    1. No, this one is at Schoolcraft and Middlebelt Rds. It’s often hard to find a place to sit at the 8 Mile & Haggerty one, but it is a lively one. This SB is across the highway from where I work, and I’ll often go there on off-days because the folks are so nice there and it’s a Clover location.

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