I Like To Call It Research
Why do I do this? Because by listening in on other people’s conversations I pick up a lot of good things that show up in my writing. Without keeping my ears tuned in this blog would probably be a three-day-a-week affair.
I also pick up some good twists and turns of language. When I sit sipping my coffee at St. Arbucks I can pick up things from a real variety of people. There are some retired people who are seated next to college students, next to Native Hautians, next to folks from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. There are Hipsters next to Geezers next to Junior League, next to a couple struggling to stay clean and sober. And then there is me – sitting in the corner watching and listening to them all.
Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Did you hear that?”) likes to call itself “The Crossroads of America” because at one time it was a Transportation and Travel nexus. There are still signs about that downtown. I think there should be a sign at St. Arbucks declaring it “The Crossroads of Society.” It is a real dog’s breakfast of humanity around here on most days.
By keeping my mouth shut and my ears open I have learned all sorts of things.
For some reason there are couples who think that St. Arbucks is a good place to come after one half of the couple has said the words, “We need to talk.” They will sit inches away from a perfect stranger (Me) and discuss the intimate ups and downs as well as the ins and outs of their relationship. I’ve heard couples breaking up and I’ve heard why – in detail. There have been moments when I wanted to lean over to them and yell, “TMI people! Too Much Information! Either seek professional counseling or sign these release forms so I can use your real names when I write my next book, “Fifty Shades of Pumpkin Spice.”
I’ve seen and heard shameless flirting as brand new relationships were formed. I’ve witnessed job interviews, young people being recruited for the military, weddings planned, shady contractors overselling and overcharging customers, and people mumbling to themselves about whatever world they inhabit between medications.
I have to admit that I sometimes will do the mumbling, but rather than complaining about the color of the sky on Neptune, I am working out some dialogue for a writing project. I have to say the words out loud (or in a soft mumble) to be sure they sound right, that is “Real,” before I write them down. It works for me.
So, whenever I feel the need to hear, or perhaps overhear, the voices of people in their native habitat I grab the paperback book I keep in the Toyota, get a coffee, and tune in to the next table – all the while looking to be engrossed in my book.
It just occurred to me that I may be blowing my cover by writing this. Perhaps I should start showing up in costume to hide my true identity – a Clark Kent type of thing. I already have the glasses.
I’ll save the Priest for weekends. Tomorrow, if you think you see Bradley Cooper sipping on an iced coffee – that’ll be me. I’ll save some of my other looks for down the road: Kate Upton and Idris Alba.
I’ll see you at St. Arbucks, but you might not see me.