I’m Not TRYING to Eavesdrop

But I Certainly Hear a LOT of Conversations

By Jeff Salter

This week’s topic asks whether we’ve ever overheard a conversation and added it in some way to a story. Wow… this is a goldmine! I’m constantly hearing or overhearing exchanges between / among folks — and most of them are (most likely) not even aware that anyone else is listening. In some of these cases it’s a matter of the individuals simply being quite loud — often they’re on their cell phone to someone else. Sometimes, as in one of my examples, below, they simply don’t take into account that someone is sitting in the very next booth, less than 12 inches between the back of their head and the back of mine. I mean… some people just don’t know how to lower their voices. Or they simply don’t care if anyone hears. Or – and I contemplate this often – maybe they WANTED everyone in the establishment to hear their conversation!

But have I used any of these overheard conversations in a “story”? Hmm. Depends on how you define “story”. I’ve used them in blogs and FB posts. It’s entirely possible that some have crept into my fiction… somewhere.


Example # 1 [posted on 10-21-2014]

Overheard a brief but fascinating conversation at the grocery this afternoon.
An older gent was moving slowly… and he grunted or grimaced as he approached the younger man (who evidently already knew him).
The younger man was also obviously a man of medicine because he remarked, “Ya got a hitch in yer git-a-long?”
His diagnosis must have been spot-on because the older gent replied affirmatively and proceeded to add a detail or two… which, unfortunately, I missed.
I only missed it because it would have been criminal eavesdropping had I lingered to learn the specific cause of his “hitch”. [You know… a HIPAA violation.]
All this medical diagnostic work and not a dime for the co-pay.
The most interesting aspect of this case is that my own git-a-long seems to have developed a hitch equal to that of this older gent’s.
Now I need to call the grocery and see if they know the name of that young doctor.

Example # 2 [posted on 12-9-2015]

Do you ever find yourself practically in the middle of somebody else’s conversation… but you wish you weren’t? You know, they’re in the next booth (which is about 8 inches away) and loudly talking and you can’t help overhearing. Here’s the one I overheard today.
[Names have been changed]
Guy # 1: You should go see Joe Doe, at ABC.
Guy # 2: Yeah, maybe I’ll do that. So what was his name?
Guy # 1: Joe Doe.
Guy # 2: Joe Doe, huh? And where’s he at?”
Guy # 1: He works at ABC, up on North 27.
Guy # 2: Good idea. I’ll check it out. Who should I ask for?
Guy # 1: Joe Doe. He’s the main guy.
Guy # 2: And that’s over where?
Guy # 1: North 27, just past XYZ. It’s the ABC place.
Guy # 2: Oh, ABC. That’s uh…
Guy # 1. On North 27.
Guy # 2: Okay. Sounds. like a plan. Who’s the guy again?
Guy # 1: Joe Doe.

Okay, folks, this is not verbatim, but it’s pretty durn close to their exchange. By the time we’d reached Guy # 2’s 14th question about the contact’s name, I was ready to write it on a napkin and just HAND it to him.
Have y’all ever been stuck on the fringes of a conversation like this?

Example # 3 [posted on 7-24-2012]

I was not eavesdropping, but could not help overhearing this conversation between two guys in the locker room at the ‘Y’.

Guy # 1 seemed to be consoling his friend and his voice sounded quite compassionate as he said: “…never let a woman hold your wallet or your watch.”
That caught my attention for several reasons — not the least of which was that wristwatches are rarely seen these days. Naturally, I assumed that voice belonged to an older man.

I couldn’t quite hear Guy # 2’s reply, but he seemed to affirm that platitude.

Then Guy # 1 repeated, presumably for emphasis (and to drive home his key points): “Nope… you never let a woman hold your wallet or your watch…
It seemed there was much more to Guy # 2’s misery and I longed to hear the summation of his experienced friend’s wise counsel. However, one of them apparently noticed I was in earshot… and their conversation ended abruptly when I turned the corner of that row of tall lockers.
I confess I was quite startled when I saw them.
It would have been remarkable advice even if Guy # 1 was not all of about 11 years old… and Guy # 2 (slightly larger) couldn’t have been more than 12.
True story.
One wonders how that little chap already has so much experience with women.

At the time I initially posted this on Facebook, one of my friends suggested this boy had probably heard that sage advice from an older brother or dad (or even an uncle). Someone else suggested – and I think this more likely – that he could’ve heard it from his grandpa.

However, another of my female friends – responding to the seeming immaturity of this boy – replied:

“I was quite reliable at 11, myself, and still am. I can add, ‘Never let a boy hold more than your hand.’ BOY meaning immature male of any age… in other words, most males.”


Have YOU ever overheard a jewel of a conversation? Can you share it?

[JLS # 471]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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16 Responses to I’m Not TRYING to Eavesdrop

  1. jbrayweber says:

    I love these, Jeff! Thanks for the morning chuckle.
    I can’t recall ever using an overheard conversation in any of my stories, but watching people at places like Starbucks, park, or other public venue has sparked interest enough where I’m making up stories and scenarios about them on the spot. But even to that, I don’t think they’ve ever made it into my books.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Often, when I overhear conversations, it’s because at least one of the speakers uses a volume suited for a stage actor trying to reach the back row of the auditorium. More often than not, the conversation is nothing that I care to know about. I felt really sorry for the gentleman suffering from IBS, and I sincerely hope the young man selling insurance is successful in his endeavor, but neither topic helped me enjoy my meal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      well said. and, occasionally, when my ears are assaulted by someone else’s conversation, I’ll look around to see who’s making all that noise. And, often, it’s someone whose body language and other movements indicate clearly — to me — that they WANT everyone’s attention.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Denise W says:

    Overheard cell phone conversation in the grocery store – “Well, if what you are smelling on the inside of your nose is stinky, then you need to go to the doctor!”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, I have heard LOTS of crazy snippets of conversation and you know, sometimes it’s all I can do to stop straightening them out,but I don’t.
    Those are doozies!
    In a grocery store once with my sons, a not-young woman was shopping with an elderly man. At one point she turned and said, “Do you have any raisins at HOME, Hon?” We had to leave the aisle because for some reason, that his us all funny. One son insisted that they must be spies and it was code. I have no idea if it was the way the woman said it or what, but it was funny. It became ‘code’ in our life for someone speaking crytically for quite some time.
    Apparently, I came up with this idea of overheard conversations some time back, and well, read me tomorrow to find out more.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m in agreement with your comments here, Jeff. People are oblivious to others when they are on their phone/blue tooth. And I could care less if the only package of “X” is the wrong size. All I keep thinking is, they used to lock people up for this (seemingly talking to yourself). Or I think, do they know how crazy they look? Others, I agree, just want attention. The worst is when you hear an argument in progress, or I should say, one side of an argument. I’ve seem women stomp around, wave their hands in the air, and say things for everyone in the store to hear that made your hair stand on end. Yep…you guessed it…in WalMart.

    That exchange in the restaurant, I died laughing. I would have gone ahead and written it down, reached over to him, and said, “Here! Now change the subject.” LOL You showed great restraint. When I read it to Arnie, he laughed and said, Army rule #1, always carry something to write on and with.

    Most of the jewel’s I’ve unwillingly overheard in conversations have been used in my books already. But I’m sure I’ll hear more for upcoming stories. 🙂 It’s the way things are today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Glad Arnie enjoyed my account of the guy asking directions but never focusing enough to retain the very simple answers. I no longer remember if I even got a look at either man — I mean sufficient to guess at why Guy # 2 was unable to digest and retain “Joe Doe at ABC on North 27”. Even if we give him the benefit of doubt that there may have been distractions in the busy establishment, it still seems a stretch that he could not grasp those three straightforward details.
      Also, I realize I’ve given little praise to Guy # 1 who so patiently repeated and re-explained those 3 details… over and over. Had I been Guy # 1, I think I would have been so exasperated that I would have ended the exchange and said something snarky like, “If you’re not interested enough in this information to retain those 2 details, why don’t we move on to a different topic?”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. stevevanhorn says:

    I really think you’re on to something…Did you know that the song, Money for Nothing, by Dire Straits was written from a conversation that was overheard at an appliance store? They made a small fortune from it, so I guess it pays to keep at least one ear on the lookout…or hearout…or eavesdrop???

    Liked by 3 people

  7. trishafaye says:

    Great post, Jeff! Yes – volume and phone conversations – both so annoying to me, but yet, as I read here – such a great source of tidbits for future writing. Now the big part of my problem – writing them down so I don’t lose the snippets!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      absolutely, Trisha. And sometimes I’ll find myself jotting notes on a napkin just so I won’t forget the salient points of what I’ve just overheard. And some of those conversations have been totally amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

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