Posted by: chlost | July 29, 2010

Someone’s Eavesdropping

The past few weeks, I have been taking another writing class.  It has been slow going, as I had to miss the first week’s class, and was late to the next class due to traffic problems. Tonight I was early, but hadn’t had a chance to do any of the assignment we’d been given due to the funeral, hospital watch, and catching up at work this week. I hate being unprepared, but it couldn’t be helped. I survived.

One of the assignments we were given is to eavesdrop on conversations going on around us, and use some of that as a basis for a story or scene. Of course, we were to make up the surrounding information, but try to use at least some of the overheard conversation as accurately as possible.

One of my vices is that I eavesdrop. This is a secret I have never revealed. I don’t know what I am supposed to do when people are talking in public loudly enough that it is easy to hear them I don’t go out of my way and try to listen in on things which people are trying to keep quiet. But really-people in the restaurant booth right behind you, talking loudly enough that you could easily be part of the conversation. How can you NOT overhear that?  Sittting in the adjoining booth alone, I used to try to look as if I was not listening, either by seeming to be engrossed in a newspaper, or looking off into space with a bemused look on my face, appearing to be considering the nature of quantum physics or something. I don’t think I am much of an actress, so I have finally given up and don’t pretend that I am not hearing these conversations. I haven’t kept track of them, though.

As almost all of us have experienced, the cell phone conversations which are conducted very loudly in almost any public place (and traditionally more private places, i.e. bathroom stalls) are nearly always impossible not to hear. Today, I was getting a coffee at my local coffee shop, and a guy was loudly telling the person on the other end of the phone where he was, while simultaneously giving his order. I felt bad for the cashier-after all of these years and all of the discussion about the rudeness of this, the guy still did it. Without apology.

In any event, I am now empowered to eavesdrop. It is an assignment! I have been told to do this by a person in authority. It is to better my writing skills!!

So, be careful what you are saying in public. There may be budding writers out there on a mission to steal your life’s conversations for their own benefit.  

I’ll keep track of what I hear, and will post any juicy gossip or interesting, horrifying, or totally odd conversations which I overhear. Then I just have to decide what to do with all of that material.



  1. Next you’ll be telling us that you are going into field training with the CIA.

    • Well, the spy business seems to be booming…….no one would suspect me!

  2. You mean not everyone eavesdrops? I do it all the time – especailly at work when the group in the next aisles carries on conversations over the cubicle walls. You get some interesting stuff that way. I say as long as you’re not doing the cup-to-the-door trick or hiding undercover hear, listen on!

    • Darn, I thought that the cup trick might be fun! I work from home, so no cubicle.

  3. I gave up eavesdropping years ago. Now I just lean over and blurt out “Can Ya’ll speak up please?”

    • I’m almost certaing that would change the quality of the conversation!

  4. I’ve done the book, newspaper, ‘wrapt inner attention’ tricks for years too. Its harder to disguise the jotting down in a notebook though!!

    When my lovely goodies were delivered this week I was told, to my astonishment and horror, that the microphone attached to the digital voice recorder, was capable of listening to, and recording, my neighbours’ conversations at least two or three houses away!! Do I qualify for the spying game then?

    I cannot wait for the low down on your eavesdropping gossip, bring it on!

    • Now I have to go someplace. The prerequisite of overhearing a conversation seems to be that there has to be a conversation. And I can’t be part of it. With just me and the dog, not much to overhear! If I had your equipment, it would be so much easier, as I imagine the neighbors have much more interesting conversations.

  5. This sounds like so much fun. 🙂

    • I’ll keep you posted!

  6. Does eavesdropping by reading count? Some years ago, when we had recently moved to our present house, we offered to feed a neighbour’s cat when he and his wife went on holiday. We were told to look for what we needed in their kitchen. We did so and all went well, but on the first day I noticed a list of ‘to do’ jobs on the wall: and top of the list was a note to themselves “Look at new neighbours (us!) through binoculars”. This was thirty years ago but I have never quite got over it. Was it the fact that they were so nosy, the fact that they needed to remind themselves to do it, or the fact that they were so unselfconscious that they did not mind leaving the list out with this on it? :)))

  7. I eavesdrop all the time. I figure if someone is talking publicly, it’s fair game.

    • Or course! You ARE a secret agent, right? 🙂

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