Friday, September 27, 2013

The Art of Overhearing

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the value of overhearing. On this week’s episode of Boardwalk Empire, Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson gained insight into a city he was unfamiliar with (Tampa) by listening in on a slick salesman delivering a pitch. 

And today, I was chatting with a librarian friend at the art school library. She was telling me about her ideas for upcoming quilting projects, and showing me beautiful images of fabric and masterfully-crafted quilts.

On the way out, a woman sitting behind the desk stopped me, and asked me if I was in the fashion design department (she’d overheard our conversation). I told her I wasn’t, but we spoke for a minute, and I learned she is a jewelry designer (she had a gorgeous silver pendant on that she’d made).

If we’re open to them, these chance moments can lead to such fascinating conversations and thoughts (even if, or maybe especially because they are brief). In grad school, I was once riding the bus (where the eavesdropping is glorious, friends) with two other students. We were talking about how much we loved Atonement, and my buddy Paul said, “Ah, the prose just sparkles!” A man sitting behind us asked us whether we were students or writers, and he told us he was so delighted to hear people speaking about literature in this way.

In my Introduction to Professional Writing class yesterday, we were discussing the value of Twitter--I absolutely believe that it is a place to have private conversations in public. The internet lets us people-watch and overhear in abundance, doesn’t it?

It makes me happy to think that technology might be increasing the ways for us to be receptive and attentive to the world around us (although it certainly doesn’t always feel like this--maybe we’re breaking even in terms of attention). In these small, wonderfully-meaningless moments of connection, for a few minutes it feels like we’re living in that provincial town in Beauty and the Beast (“Bonjour! Bonjour!”). The musical just under the surface peeks through, then recedes.

1 comment

  1. It can be like listening to stories, at times I agree very entertaining, and at times, kind of enervating...I suppose it depends on what one is overhearing. Happy Weekend to you Hannah : )


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