Thursday, June 2, 2011

Listening In

Everybody seems to be on their cellphone - in line at the bank, checking out at the grocery store and even walking down the street.

Even though it is usaually annoying, there is an upside. Eavesdropping on cellphone calls is almost as good as eavesdropping on a live conversation. Of course, it's a little more challenging because you have to imagine the other side of the call.

Once coming home on the train, a woman behind me was having a very loud cellphone conversation. When I tell you what she was saying, you can pretty much figure the other side of the call. The woman was saying that she was definitely not having an affair with Walter no matter what the caller thought (obviously Mrs. Walter). She went on and on about the non affair and then ended by saying if Mrs. Walter was a better wife, Walter wouldn't be looking to cheat on her.

Sometimes the conversation and the look of the caller are at odds. Yesterday at the airport, a heavy set man with dyed light brown hair and dressed in white shorts and a Hawaiin shirt was telling someone on the phone that he'd been spending 10 hours a day at the hospital. Where, on the beach?

And well, sometimes the conversations are just boring.

But then sometimes the one side of the conversation is just enough to fire up your imagination. I was in the Admiral's Club at LAX trying to get a cup of coffee before my plane. A man dressed in a well tailored suit with a cellphone stuck between his ear and shoulder was getting a cup of coffee and taking up the whole area. I started to get annoyed, thinking he was thoughtless and rude until I heard his end of the his call. In a panicked voice, he said," How much exactly was the descrepency?" Sounds like the beginning of a story to me.

Have you heard one side of any interesting conversations?

Anyone coming to Printers Row in Chicago this weekend - I'll be on cozy mystery panel at 10:30 in the Harold Washington Library and signing books at the Mystery Writers of America booth from noon to 1:45 and then the The Big Sleep booth from 2 to 3.


Shel said...

It doesn't look like I"ll make it to Printer's Row - we're picking up my daughter and grandbaby at Union in Chicago on Sunday but after a 2 hour train ride I'm sure all they're going to want to do is head for our house and something that doesn't move! This grandbaby has trumped both Malice and Printer's Row this year, LOL.

Planner said...

I love the Mrs. Walter story! You have to be pretty daring to have a conversation like that in public. All you needed to complete the story was for Walter to show up after the call and ask who was on the phone or perhaps for him to be paged over a PA system while Mrs. Walter was still on the phone.

Monica Ferris said...

That last overheard phone call would made a great beginning to a mystery story, wouldn't it?

Betty Hechtman said...

Shel, a grandbaby trumps everything. I hope you enjoy every minute of their visit.

Betty Hechtman said...

Planner, the woman was talking really loudly, too. Even if you weren't nosy like some people, you couldn't avoid hearing her. Unfortunately, I could get the attitude she added to my telling of her call. Picture the woman with her hand of her hip, giving her head an annoyed shake as she let Mrs. Walter know she was wrong about her accusations. But then, you have to wonder, was Mrs. Walter really wrong?

Betty Hechtman said...

Monica, I was already thinking about the story as I got on the plane.

The cool thing about hearing only one side of the call is that it fires up your imagination about the other side.

Terri Thayer said...

Starbucks is a haven for overheard conversations. I've heard twelve step conversations, and bible study. The other day I overheard two middle aged men discussing their failed marriages (does this happen only in Calfornia?)

The bottom line for both of them was that they knew that they shouldn't have gotten married, but allowed themselves to be swayed.

Betty Hechtman said...

That sounds like an interesting conversation, Terri. Did they say why they should't have gotten married?

Julie said...

Terri, it doesn't only happen in Cali and not only in Starbucks, either. I've been privy to riveting stuff in Panera in Indy and Jamba Juice in Las Vegas. I was on the other end, too.

Dining with other romance writers and an editor in Chicago, we were discussing things like "killing off the Grandmother," in the first person, and two men at the next table were nearly falling out of their chairs listening to us. If they figured out we were writers, it was probably a huge letdown for them. Still makes me laugh.

Rebecca said...

This reminds me of the lead story in an old Harry Kemelman book, it starts with someone overhearing "nine miles is a long way, especially in the rain" and ends with them deciphering a murder--really cool logic and deduction. The book is probably Nine Mile Walk, not one of the Friday the Rabbi Slept Late series. But those are great, too!
Hope the thunderstorm missed Printer's ROw.
Becky Preston

Betty Hechtman said...

Julie, I wish I could have seen those guys faces. I bet they had some stories to tell later.

Betty Hechtman said...

Becky, This year I got through the book signings without being rained on or chilled to the bone. However, as I was on my way home, the storm hit. I had an umbrella since the storm was predicted. I was surprised how many people downtown didn't have umbrellas.

Printers Row was great. Our panel got a good turn out. Julie Hyzy did a fabulous job as moderator. The MWA booth was in a great location and got a lot of action. The Big Sleep booth was right by the entrance and Julie Hyzy, JB Stanley, Linda O. Johnston and I sat at a table in the middle of the passing crowd. It was hard to ignore us.