Eavesdropping on people is rude; though how else are you supposed to hear their conversations?
One morning last week, I stepped outside on my deck in the warm still-rising sunshine and took in what would be the last breeze of an otherwise flat and humid day. As I turned to go back inside, I walked through a cobweb.
This is a mild annoyance for some, and most remedy the situation by merely brushing off the strands of the web and going about their day. I, however, dropped to the ground screaming and began clawing at my face.
Thinking the spider was now not only dethroned from his web, but also pissed-off, I rolled back and forth as if on fire, then jumped up and ran headfirst into the door. Then I went upstairs, re-showered, put my previous shirt into a plastic bag, cinched the bag tightly shut, re-dressed, and left for work.
Still rattled from the incident, I settled into my seat on the train and diverted my efforts to keeping my knee from touching the man next to me, who for some reason was eating a full chicken dinner at eight o’clock in the morning. At the next stop, an old woman entered our car, genuflected in the aisle, pulled out a set of rosary beads and began mumbling prayers to herself as she rocked in her seat.
I began to think that these events would signal the beginning to a strange day, and those suspicions were soon confirmed as I looked over the shoulder of the man seated in front of me, and noticed he was casually scrolling through porn on his iPhone. A woman with a baby sat next to him.
I arrived at the office craving more crazy. Being a successful writer is a lot like being a successful squirrel; you need to forage around for material like acorns, collecting vital supplies that will last you through the long cold winters of writer’s block. I was only at my desk for a few moments before I ventured back outside.
I walked into the Bellevue Hotel’s lobby and decided to stop off for some coffee at a Starbucks. Crazy people are usually well-caffeinated. The line was long, and the people waiting were mostly young professionals about to start their work day. While others distracted themselves with iPods and Blackberry’s, I observed. And I wasn’t disappointed.
“…and it’s a large iced tea, okay? I don’t know what you fucking call it, but large. All I know is it wasn’t large last time. And there was too much ice. Christ, how hard is it?”
“We’ll get right on that. Can I have your name, Miss?”
“It’s Mrs. See the ring? And the name is Christina…with a ‘C’. You spelled it wrong last time, too.”
The rest of the line waited, all of us hoping the barista would hop from behind the counter and perform some sort of Mortal Kombat finishing move to the head of this awful creature, who by the way was clad in pantyhose and cheap running sneakers like an extra from “Working Girl.” The barista’s vengeance would be completely justified, and we would’ve applauded, hoisted her in the air and carried her out into the street as our queen, kicking the head of her vanquished foe into a dusty corner.
But she said nothing, and shuffled away, bottling up her anger along with the iced tea she looked ready to spit in. I ordered next; a grande coffee, and loudly proclaimed that my name started with an S. But the creature had already slithered to the end of the counter.
As I stared hatefully at her and wished awful things on her likely ugly children, I noticed two very large women chattering away in the corner. I am not one to make fun of the overweight…but I absolutely LOVE making fun of obese people.
At what point did being fat equate to having a handicap? And as a society, why do we bend over backwards for those who can’t bend over forwards? “But Sean,” you say, “some of these people just can’t control themselves.” Really? Self- control is a part of everyday life. That’s why you don’t see people walking around peeing on everything. So why the double standard?
If a person leaves a restaurant and has too much to drink, a cop will stop and arrest them. Why don’t they pull over those who have had too much to eat?
“Sir, have you been gorging tonight?”
“I may have had some pasta or something like an hour ago, just one or two plates though. (burp) I’m fine.”
“Is that a chocolate sundae in the cup holder, sir?”
“That’s not mine, I swear.”
“Roll out of the car, please.”
Now, women readers, don’t get offended. These two women in front of me were not merely overweight, they were gigantic. I have no problem with overweight people, but these women were the kind of fat that is just short of giving them a little scooter to get around on. However they were not so fat that they were unemployable, and they were enjoying a little coffee break before wheezing their way back to whatever chocolate factory they worked in. And I was there to eavesdrop.
“Susan, oh my god. I absolutely LOVE that top.”
“Really? I have to tell you, so do I! And you’ll never guess where I found it. Ross! 40% off!”
“Shut up! They really do have good stuff there. And that pattern is so fun. Are those little hydrangeas?”
“They ARE! I know, I saw it and absolutely fell in love. And it hides stains so well, too.”
“Well I just adore it. You’re such a good shopper.”
Then they both paused and took giant slurps.
“And you know, it was the only thing that fit me.”
Hearing this, I laughed louder than I have ever laughed in my entire life. It was a resounding bellow, and it reverberated off the marble walls, bounced around the whole room, and shot right back at the huge women, who were now staring at me.
“The only thing that fit!” I whispered (rather loudly), and nudged the man next to me. “HA! Oh my god. Because she’s enormous. Get it? That is amazing.”
The man quickly disassociated himself with me and moved to the side of the room. Sometimes I forget that I’m in public, and upon realizing the faux pas I grabbed the coffee and ran out the door before the women had a chance to unhinge their jaws.
On the train ride home that night I expected more crazy, and it soon presented itself.
On SEPTA commuter trains they have things called “quiet cars,” where the usage of cell phones for extended periods is frowned upon. A gentleman on the car that day looked like he had been frowned upon his entire life, and he was ironically shouting into his phone over the voice of the conductor who was asking people not to use their phones.
“Two hundred. I said TWO HUNDRED! (pause) Damn girl, you didn’t have to cook all that shit up! (pause) Now what I’m gonna do? I can’t smoke that shit. (pause) Is you crazy? Yo, put shortie on the phone. Put (pause)…put shortie on the phone now, dog, for real. (pause) Cause I’m gonna cut her motherfuckin head off that’s why!”
He was obviously some sort of tax attorney.
While the other passengers cowered in fear, I was jotting down a transcript of his call as quick as possible, which was erratic, and slightly terrifying.
“Yo dog, for real, that’s my bad. I got that high cholesterol and shit, you know? (pause) Yeah dog, for real. I be like eatin that glucose shit and…wait, what? Motherfucker, is you playin? Yo, this shit ain’t no game, son. (pause) Disneyworld? Is you ignorant? That’s Epcot, baby! Yeahhh, that’s some Thunder Mountain Railroad shit right there. (pause) Yeah, nah that was Wesley Snipes. Word? Yeah, long division be mad hard. (pause) Cocoa Puffs. (pause) Yeah…yeah okay. Yeah, I see you at church. Yeah, and yo, tell that bitch to quit playin though for real or I’m gonna cut her fuckin head off like I done before. Tell your mamma hello.”
Instead of inviting the man to dinner, I got off at my stop… and then ran a block or two.
By the time I reached my house, I was mentally exhausted, yet also electrified. It had been a busy day, and one filled with tremendous writing material. I opened my laptop and began typing as fast as I could, pausing to feel bad about the obese women part, and then laughing again.
I fell asleep at my desk writing and the next morning woke up with a stiff neck. After trundling downstairs, I stepped outside on my deck to stretch in the warm still-rising sunshine and take in what would be the last breeze of an otherwise flat and humid day. And as I turned to go back inside, I walked through another cobweb.