Warning to gals who use public places, like Safeway’s check-out lines, for their personal confessionals: Others will be listening in

It’s true. I have no shame. If people are talking loudly in public about their personal problems–whether to a another human being who is present or to someone on their cell phone–I’ll listen in. 
Will you?
Maybe I’m obnoxiously nosy. Oh, wait! I’m a writer! And, I’m gathering bits and pieces of true-life human drama to, uh, put into my trashy new novel, which has the working title: Peyton Place 2010: Walnut Creek.
My latest eavesdropping on a personal confessional occurred Sunday night. But, as with all these situations, my eavesdropping, I swear, was totally unvoluntary.
After I went to the emergency room for gashing my thumb with a potato peeler, I stopped in at Safeway in downtown Walnut Creek to pick up some Motrin. I wound up in line behind two artsy young women who looked like they were on their way to a party. They were dressed up and buying beer and party snacks.  
One of the women was striking, with long, wavy dark hair and big brown Penelope Cruz eyes. She was dressed in a silky turquoise jacket and brightly patterned skirt, shining with tiny mirror tiles–very unusual but pretty. This Penelope Cruz look-alike was with her friend, who was, to be blunt, more plain, dressed in a dark somber suit.
The Plain Jane was playing the role of the less glamorous sidekick, listening and looking up sympathetically, as Penelope Cruz spoke in desparate, dramatic and very audible tones about her relationship woes.

I couldn’t help but overhear. Neither could anyone else, including the clerk who was trying to get Penlope to focus on showing her ID for the beer. 

Penelope Cruz sounded like she was on the verge of making a big life decision, whether to stay with Him–We really love each other!–but not sure if love is enough: We just need to hold on a little longer… I’m not sure this is how I want to live the rest of my life!

At some point, I caught Plain Jane’s eye, but she seemed unconcerned that I was obviously watching the two of them and listening in. She turned her attention back to Penelope Cruz, who revealed more reasons she was having a really bad day. She had just learned that she had been rejected from Berkeley–for graduate school in art–but, well, she shrugged, she still had a chance at some other schools. 
That’s nice to hear.

Hate to make stereotypes about my gender, but it is usually females who have no shame about crying a river in public about their personal woes. Can you imagine men doing that? Oh, men can be loud and obnoxious and self-absorbed when out socializing in public, but it’s never about their girlfriend difficulties or anything else remotely personal.  

The worst are, probably not surprisingly, teenage girls.

She’s just so unfair! declaired a sulky, slouchy, faux-plantinum blond nymphette. She, too, was standing in the check-out line at Safeway, complaining to her friend about her mom not letting her go out that night. And, she went on–and on–to loudly voice other complaints.
Once when I was changing in the locker room at my gym, I got to listen to another girl in her late teens complain into her cell phone about a whole range of personal issues.

Of course, I listen–even though, in some cases, as with the squawking-voiced girl in  the locker room– the confessional ceases to be entertaining and starts to become annoying.

Maybe I have no morals or decency by eavesdropping. Then again, if people are going to talk loudly and fill the air of grocery store lines, locker rooms, and restaurant dining rooms,with their personal dramas, well, they don’t deserve their privacy.

7 thoughts on “Warning to gals who use public places, like Safeway’s check-out lines, for their personal confessionals: Others will be listening in

  1. Soccer Mom,

    You could write a cool novel about all this stuff right now. Not kidding. It's been done before.


  2. When I hear someone talking about something very personal on a cell phone, I usually make sure they see me looking right at them. Maybe they will realize they are in a public place and use some discretion.

    Sadly, this almost never happens and the loud talker gives me a look like I am being rude.

    Too bad that it doesn't matter to me.


  3. SM, you should try riding on BART with teenagers, it is amazing. I got to hear all about one girl giving another advice on losing her virginity and some boys talking about how they liked to take drugs and drive around. There's no filter.


  4. Masterlock is so right. I once got on BART headed into SF and one girl was sprawled across three seats chatting away on her cell phone. The whole car got her life story. Then she got annoyed when a homeless man came on and asked if he could sit next to her and if she liked the weather. Poor guy actually needed someone to talk to and poor everyone else just needed this girl to shut it.


  5. When I come across someone talking on their cell phone using one of those ear pieces, I start responding to their questions.

    For example, person on cell phone says “can you believe he did that to me again?” to the unseen person on the other end of their conversation, so I respond to her “no, I absolutely cannot believe he did that to you again…” They usually give me a very puzzled look and move away.

    It is great fun and a tremendous stress reliever…try it!


  6. Ha, 8:10 – that reminds me of the time I was using my bluetooth in the office (only time it is acceptable) and asked my wife if she wanted to meet me for drinks after work. A girl I work with said, “That sounds great!” At which point, I pointed out that I was on the phone. Awkward times.


  7. I think there are all kinds of us out here who enjoy eavesdropping, writers or wanna be writers or former writers or not. . . It's interesting no matter where you hang — or can be.
    With you on the fun,


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