I commute to work every day via public transportation (read: the subway) (read: I swore I was done doing the whole subway thing) (read: misery -- but it could be worse; I could be riding the bus). I could go on at length about how much I detest public transportation, and how much I loath commuting in general, but I'll admit it's good for one thing: Eavesdropping on people's conversations. Yes, I'm one of those subway riders who will take out her pen and paper and begin transcribing, verbatim, exactly what you're saying to your friend sitting next to me (except I'm stealthily covert about it; you'd think I was writing out a grocery list if you were actually paying attention). In other words: continue talking, people. You give great fodder for characters in future books.
In fact, these conversations are one of the reasons that compelled me to buy a Droid smartphone two days ago (the other reason? I needed something for private use at work, but that's beside the point). Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I'd ever own a smartphone. I'm not a texter, and I've always used my old-school cell phone for what it was intended for: talking. But since my handwriting looks like rabid chicken scratches when I attempt to keep up with the nearest chatter/compose any sudden story ideas I get on the way home, I needed something more stealth and streamlined.
...Something I could use to transcribe one such conversation that I overheard last week:
SCENE: 5:15pm. Subway car barrels beneath the SF Bay en route home from the city. Two college freshman (or sophomores, I wasn't sure) are seated next to me, chatting loudly about their lives and places in the world. Middle-aged men and women, peering over their opened books and Blackberrys, study them as they speak. Me: incognito next to them, wearing big black sunglasses (though we are in a tunnel), reporter's pad and pen clutched in hand, waiting for conversation to continue....
Girl 1 (dark-haired a la Bella Swan from Twilight, in hipster clothing, and insists on ending every sentence with a higher inflection, as though she'd tacked a question mark to each one of her sentences):
"...I don't know though? There are, like, a lot of negatives to wanting to be on Broadway? And, like, that's why I'm afraid of double-majoring, but, like, I know that interior design is a good fallback major. I haven't really researched it, like, that much...but, like, I think I'd like it? It, like, looks really fun? Plus we're still, like, in college so I still have, like, a couple more semesters to change my mind."
Girl 2 (blonde, in similar hipster garb, strangely shares her friend's higher-inflection-at-end-of-each-sentence syndrome):
"For our generation it's, like, so competitive? In my mom's generation just, like, going to, like, college would, like, get you a job afterward, you know? I, like, wish that was still true? They had it, like, so easy?"
"Like, I envy those people who, like, knew what they wanted to do as early as high school and, like, studied it in college? Like, I wish it could just be easy like our parents' generation, you know?"
"I wish I could, like, fast forward to the part in life where I already have, like, a nice car and, like, a house and everything? But I'm still not, like, sure about my major? I just, like, don't know what I want to do for the rest of my life. Like, I can't make that kind of decision. It's so...like...permanent."
Girl 1 nods and they smile at each other, sharing a moment.
At the next stop the doors opened and they stepped off, clutching their Urban Outfitters shopping bags and iPods and cotton hobo bags with witty environmental sayings printed on them. And suddenly, to all those middle-aged people in that subway car, the future seemed at once dizzying and terrifying.
Writer, wife, and mom to two baby girls. As of 2013 I'm no longer brunette (blond ambition!) nor on a budget. I love shoes, wine, Palm Springs, and Barry Gibb. As always, I'm still looking for my lost shaker of salt.
Email me at brunetteonabudget [at] gmail [dot] com.