Monday, August 12, 2013

Dialogus Interruptus

Here's the thing...I love writing dialogue.

Here's the other thing...I have an equal love for eavesdropping on anything remotely resembling good dialogue.

It's a bad, bad habit. When teenage couples come into Starbucks, sit one table away and start talking about how they're using the rythym method, I shouldn't listen! I really shouldn't and yet I do.

There are conversations I tune out with ease. Neverending discussions of physical ailments are like the sound of a vaccuum cleaner when I'm writing. Pleasant white noise. Easily filterable.

Same goes for the quasi business meetings. However, I'm a sucker for job interviews. Do you know how many people interview potential employees at coffee shops? I do!! There are days when it's all I can do not to intercede. NOOOO. Don't give the 'I'm good with people answer'!

But I don't. I restrain myself. Or at least I did until last week.

We live in inner city Portland which means it's very walkable. As a result, every so often people walk through the neighborhood at odd hours of the night. Like 3:00 AM, for example.

The other night I was roused from a dead sleep by loud voices floating up to my second floor window which was thrown open wide to let in the night air. I'm not entirely sure why this group of boys/men, or as I started thinking of them, boys to men, decided to pause on the sidewalk below my bedroom window, but they did.

The dialogue that follows is a direct transcript of their conversation except the words 'stuff' and 'get with' are variations on the raunchier four letter words that were actually used.

"Dude, you gotta disappear for a while and be all, like mysterious and stuff. That's how you handle Xena."

"Yeah, just don't talk to her for a while and then she'll be so ready to get with you. She'll want it bad, bro."

(general laughter at this witticism)

"So you walk in and Xena's all like let's go and then you get with her and then you, like, don't talk to her for a week and then she's totally ready to get with you, like right after you text her."

"Dude, Xena's so hot! You gotta lock that stuff down."

What had been building as slow amusement turned into a sudden snort of laughter. Honestly, I just couldn't help myself. My disembodied giggling from on high put the boys to men on red alert.

Despite the foolproof plan they were crafting to 'get with' Xena, their brand of machismo apparently didn't extend to bravery in the face of female laughter. They took off at a dead run.

My advice to Xena...all you have to do is laugh.

My advice to me....control the giggles because that was some great 3:00 AM boys to men dialogue that I scared away.

And that, my friends, is one more reason I know I'm a writer. While some people might seethe about interrupted sleep, I seethe about dialogus interruptus.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That was really ridiculous! The real Xena would kick their butts.

ilima said...

This same thing happened to us on vacation last week. Teen boys in the hot tub outside our vacation condo late at night talking trash about hooking up with girls. Not cool especially since I have young kids that could hear them. My husband basically belted out..."Boys, I don't want to hear that crap." They dove under the water for a minute and then resurfaced trying to figure out where the voice came from. I swear they thought it was some form of divinity and booked it out of there. Too funny. ;)

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Hahaha! Funny post! And it's interesting to learn that some guys do play hard to get; I'd like to show this post to all the guys who wrote in their profiles that they want a girl who doesn't play games.
Sometimes I hear my students chatting with each other before class starts. I don't mean to eavesdrop, but I can't help it; I don't think they're even fully aware that I can hear them.

Barbara Watson said...

I am a total eavesdropper when the conversation's interesting to me. Like you, I can tune out certain dialog. Too bad you didn't have time to shout to the boys/men, "I know Xena."

Alison DeLuca said...

Yay, I'm not the only one who delights in forbidden, overheard dialogue! There's nothing more fun than "listening in" and hearing the wonderful ways people interact.

And as for Xena, I don't think "tarzanning that ass" is the way to go. Xena needs pampering!

Morgan said...

Xena!!!! Ha! I love it.

Johanna, you are SO ENTERTAINING. Fab post :D

The Bookworm said...

Speaking of dialogue, I work in a small, quiet office and when people are on the phone, everyone can hear their conversation. Ya'd think this would make these people lower their voices while on the phone with loved ones, friends, etc....but nope. They go on talking loud as anything, basically forcing their dialogue onto others.
lol about those guys...I'd be laughing if I heard that conversation too.

Johanna Garth said...

Alex, totally!!

Ilima, good for your husband!

NW, I think you should totally forward them this link :)

Barbara, that would have been perfect!

Alison, it will only take them a few more decades to figure that out.

Aw, thanks Morgan!

Naida, you would totally think such tight quiet quarters would make people lower their voices. It's the cell phone culture!

Hart Johnson said...

*dies* Oh, this is beautiful. When we were in Portland my husband used to just go outside and stand with these guys. Didn't happen often, but they seemed to find it really disconcerting to find a man just standing there with them.

Joanne Noragon said...

I work in an old, cavernous, brick building. Even the floors are brick. Sound echoes.

My office is around the corner from a men's room. One day I realized an intensely personal phone conversation was floating out the door and down the hall.

I walked the corridors and realized the conversation carried to every corner of the building. People were coming out of offices.

I got a sticky note and wrote a brief description of the situation. I slid my hand inside the door and put it on the wall.

An inside hand took it. The conversation didn't end.

Later that afternoon I met the man on my end of the conversation in the hall and asked if he'd read my note telling him he was broadcasting to the floor.

No, he thought it was a note to the cleaning people and he just tore it down and threw it away.

I see we all should have burst into laughter.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I would've been laughing hysterically at those boys. I bet you mortified them.

Carol Kilgore said...

LOL! I would've been sitting right beside you if I was there. So great. I wonder if they asked around about who lived there. Maybe you're now known as 'the crazy writer lady' :)

Weaver said...

Oh, that's hilarious. I can see Keanu Reeves as Ted in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure talking under your window.

Eavesdropping can be so rich. We did a NaNo Writein one year at a chocolate dessert cafe. Oh. My. Heck. Must have been date night. Who could concentrate on writing with all that going on around us.

Chuck said...

What a great topic...I do the same thing in public, and I REALLY don't want to. I have a job where hearing what is going on around me even while typing on my own keyboard is part of the requirement. I have to be ready to jump in at a mis-speak or correct a call after the agent gets off the phone. I am auto-tuned to everything in ear shot and that's six desks within 30 feet! My senior agent tells all new trainees I will hear everything they say. IT's true.

However it is not a skill easily turned off. Sitting at a restaurant or bar or Starbucks I can carry on a conversation and pay attention to all the ones around me. Some of it is hilarious. My wife still forgets I do it and when I mention something afterwards she has no idea what I'm talking about even though she was as close as I to the action.

Funny and tragic at the same time!

dolorah said...

This sounds like my 15 year old talking to his friends in his room. Scary.

But I love eavesdropping too.


Unknown said...

Ha! Oh my goodness, boys to men, I love it. Sounds familiar to some conversations I've overheard from (sadly) friends in years past.

Eavesdropping feeds my insatiable need to be incredibly nosey. The dialogue lessons it brings is a huge perk!