Eavesdropping
  • There’s a game that certain writers like to play — and in answer to your next question, it’s not called Hide-The-Salami (although that one is popular with certain writers as well, myself perhaps foremost among them), but “Eavesdropping.”

    Here’s how you play:

    Sit in a public place. Sit near people who look interesting. Have something with which to write. Now listen unobtrusively. Write down bits and pieces of what you hear. You don’t even need to see who’s talking. Just listen and write. Try to capture cadence, tonal quality, speech patterns. And ask yourself: what does the person’s manner of speech tell you about that person?

    In my chosen profession, I’m in the enviable position to play this game all night, every night. Here are two recent samples:

    Man on cell phone talking to daughter(?):

    Yeah … Yeah … All right, Sweetheart. Love you too. Oh, and hey: you by-God better not be getting a bunch of piercings when you’re down there in Santa Cruz. You come back looking like that, they’ll kick you out of that school so goddamned fast it will make your head spin … Yeah, ‘whatever.’ Just don’t be doing it, hear? All right. Bye-bye, Sweetheart.

    Next call: same man on cell phone talking to co-worker(?):

    Not much, really. Having a scotch. I’m about to head over to Starbucks for a cup of coffee, though. Yeah, I DO like their coffee … That’s because you don’t drink coffee — hey, ever see that movie Pulp Fiction? … I say PULP FICTION … Yeah … Guy goes, ‘My wife buys shitty coffee because she’s cheap. But I buy the best.’ Blood’s splattered everywhere on the walls, and they’re talking about coffee! Haw-Haw-Haw! … All right … Yeah. See you later … Sales? Sales? Those are those white things the put on the top of boats, right? Haw-haw! Bye, now.

    And there you have it. My first game of Eavesdropping made public. Pretty stimulating, n’est ce-pas?

    For the record, I’m quite familiar with the Pulp Fiction dialogue that man was referencing — because I too thought it was funny. Here, though, for anyone interested, is how it actually goes:



    David Lynch or Quentin Tarantino?

    Please check out the beautiful new illustration — “Woman With Red Wine Reading On Her Couch” — that artist Bryan Collins drew for my Contact Page.




About The Author

The sawed-off shotgun of literary pulp.

5 Responses and Counting...

  • Jack Elliott 03.01.2012

    I always wanted to be able to draw well, but never put in the time to try. What a killer collection of lines!

  • I’m feel the EXACT same way. The truth is, all my life, since I was a child, I’ve admired and envied people who can draw — because I’m so inept at it.

    Thank you for your comment, and thank you for dropping by.

  • You really are well set-up for a writing life. From my desk at work, what I mainly hear are complaints about one employee from another, and bewildered questions from my boss who holds an accounting degree but has yet to understand how to figure an average.

    For me this game is usually played with only a visual reference. I was sitting with my notebook in my car recently (don’t ask) and a man pulled up in a Porsche. I don’t know cars but I know his was an expensive one, a status car. He got out with a phone to his ear, took his Starbucks cup to the trash can, got back in. He was a thing of beauty: designer jeans, dark tee-shirt . . . really sleek. So he’s in his car and I’m in mine (don’t ask) for another half hour or so. Finally a second car pulls up, a red BMW, and here’s this chick: the yin to his yang, the Hermes to his Versace. She totters over on her spike-heeled boots, gets into his car, and away they go. Sort of. He started and stopped several times on the way out of the parking lot, the way a man will do when the chick’s going, Did I leave my lipstick? Wait, where’s my phone? I think I forgot my cigarettes/iPad/cocaine, etc.

    Where the hell were they going, matched like Nambé salt and pepper shakers? How in god’s name do two such perfect creatures find each other? Do they speak at all, or just stare at one another, blinking into the light?

  • Don’t ask!? My dear Ms. Dean, the story is too good not to ask. I’m asking: what were you doing in your car with your notebook? Designer jeans, dark tee-shirt, spike-heeled boots, cocaine and cigarettes. Talk about a thing of beauty. It’s a joy forever.

    I liked that very much. Thank you.

  • I was running away from home. Got about as far as I used to when I was a little girl with a pink plastic suitcase and a drawer full of polka-dot bloomers.

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