Wednesday, 9 September 2009

listening in

Two things that I'd like to add together:

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops writing
+
I love listening (or, I'm nosy)

Equals:
a lot of hastily scribbled down overheard conversations/observations in my notebook.


Here's part of a monologue I overheard recently. It came from a mother to her teenage daughter. The daughter (meek, quiet) kept silent throughout.

"I have just said to you, 'Do not eat anymore of that muffin' and you have looked me in the eye and taken a bite. How am I supposed to think that you understand me and are capable of an adult conversation when you deliberately, after I'd told you not to, took a bite of that muffin? We are back to square one. You have failed the test."

They were really discussing something else - the girl has chosen (without consulting her mother!) to change a subject she's studying at school. And didn't the whole cafe know about it.

It was the deliberate-ness of it all: the mother hadn't just found out. She probably thought it'd be a good idea to take her for a hot chocolate and a muffin and then tell her off, under the disguise of having a conversation with her. She just verbally tortured (with a loud voice - I was at the opposite side of the room) her daughter for about 15minutes and even at one point said, "I know you've apologised but it doesn't matter."

The girl just sat there, not even being especially cocky, more just resigned that she had a Head Case for a mother.

Maybe I shouldn't judge, I'm not a mum. But if ever I am...

Not that this is a blog about parenting. But it's good to listen and write down conversations when you're a writer, isn't it? For speech patterns and such. Not just because of nosiness.



*Writing news*
-Got a rejection from Dark Tales
-Subbed to Aesthetica
-Working on a story to sub to Mslexia ('Skin' theme, closes Sept 18th)
-Working on a book idea... hopeful.

6 comments:

katiemccullough said...

"You have failed the test"

...

Brilliant! I do that when I'm working my weekend job behind a dull counter in a dull shop, but rarely are my customers dull. Luckily it's a stationery shop so I am forever surrounded by scraps of paper to write gems like these down.

I feel sorry for the girl. Nosy on I say!

Kx.

Anne Brooke said...

Lordy, that's awful!! Poor girl ...

!!!

Axxx

Teresa Stenson said...

Hi Katie - yes, dull jobs are good for tuning in to the patter of life. 'You have failed the test' is a brilliant line. Ooh, a stationary shop? I love stationary. But then, I love coffee, but I don't love serving it. I did when we had the glass coffee jugs, like the ones in Twin Peaks, that was good...

Hiya Anne - yep, poor girl indeed, although she must have some resolve to have taken that bite while looking her mother in the eye. I wanted to catch her gaze as they left and communicate something like, "Your mum's just profoundly unhappy and most likely a power freak. It'll all be okay, lovie".

katiemccullough said...

I'm glad you followed your statement, "Ooh, a stationery shop?" with "I love stationary. But then, I love coffee, but I don't love serving it." Many people make that thought faux pas that it's amazing. Try selling it to not very nice customers THEN you'll fall out of love with it at a rapid rate.

Fighting urge to watch Twin Peaks now. I started it a few years back but never got round to actually watching the rest. I don't own it... grrr.

Miles said...

Katie, Twin Peaks is awesome, strange and totally inspiring!

Tree, I loathe parents who use their kids as a sounding board for their own frustrations. There's nothing more awkward than parents publicly scolding children or couples arguing; it just amplifies the scolder's own frustrations and insecurities.

Must be hard being a parent. Or a child. Or in a couple. Or single. Does that cover everything?

Teresa Stenson said...

I think so. Except 'dead'. But that's probably easy.

'Sounding board' is a very good way to describe it, actually. It was sooo about her, the mother, not the muffin-bitin kid.