When I visit friends in car-centric places, I’m always struck by the private time people have when they go directly from their homes, into cars and on to their offices — and back again. It’s not that I envy this private time, or even that I think people in the suburbs never interact with strangers — I know that they do — it’s just that in cities where people walk and use public transportation (like New York) there’s a dance between the public and private, with private conversations often taking place in public.
As I walk around my neighborhood I hear snippets of people’s lives. Sometimes I hear only one side — the typical mobile phone on the street situation — and other times I hear the give and take, as two people talk while walking by me.
Sometimes what I hear is simply funny.
“I’m at Union Square, in the farmer’s market. I’m wearing black — like everyone else.”
But often, I overhear a sharp-edge shard of a terrible — even MONSTROUS — interaction.
“You stayed after that! You can’t stay with him — not after that!”
“And then she told me I was too passive aggressive. The queen of emotional vampires… She called ME passive aggressive?”
“Your realize that’s a felony!”
And the dreaded…
“We really need to talk.”
Overheard comments are like magical scraps, opening lines for stories of all kinds. When I hear a choice bit of dialog it’s very hard for me NOT to start writing stories in my head. They are the best “writer prompts” I’ve ever encountered and you never know when a good one will spark a story.