Friday, December 12, 2014

The Good Listener

This one goes out to all the teenage girls at the sushi train hopping on the Bitch-fest Express, the lawyers escaping the workplace for a coffee and a whinge outside the courthouse, and that couple at the Italian restaurant who are quite possibly on a first date thanks to Tinder (which explains a lot) – for god’s sake, enunciate.

How am I expected to know why Missy is a “totes whore-bag”, how you can tell the witness was drunk or whether you’re star sign compatible if you mumble?  It’s like only watching the first 10 minutes of Gossip Girl, or the last 5 minutes of Law & Order or any of The Bachelor – frustrating in the extreme.

I know I’m a stranger, but have you considered using fewer incomprehensible verbal acronyms so I have time to google the ones you do toss around?  I realise I’m tuning in to a private conversation, but would it kill you to lay in a bit more exposition?

So goes the internal monologue of anyone who has ever enjoyed the high art of Eavesdropping in Public Places.

There’s a real skill required to pull off a successful Tune In to the Radio of Randoms.  Dare I say it (spoiler alert: I dare), there are in fact some unofficial rules to the jig.

1. Do not make eye contact with the Talkers.  That’s just rude.

2. Avoid audible responses (laughter, gasps, snorts of judgmental derision) to the Talkers.  In the Best of circumstances it will play like an odd tick, in the Worst it will appear you are reacting to an invisible friend, in the Middle the jig will indeed be up and they will accuse you of being rude.

3. If your friend gestures sideways with their head, and a well-placed eyebrow raise, for god’s sake Shut Up – there’s a vastly more interesting conversation happening within your vicinity.  Take a hint, don’t be rude.

4. When with friends, and thus Listening as a Team, avoid any quick analytical breakdowns of which one of the high schooler Talkers is Gretchen Wieners, and which one’s Regina George, while they’re still beside you.  Listening is a two-way street.  Also, it’s rude to sully the legacy of Mean Girls with anything less than half an hour of heated discussion on the topic.

5. For the truly skilled Team Listeners, develop a generic, meaningless patter you are capable of keeping up while really Listening, in order to better throw the Talkers off your scent.  Sample patter:
A: I’m not really sure.
B: Did you check the velocity of the object?
A: No.
B: Strange.
A: Very.
B: Allergic to mangoes.
A: That’s what they all said…
And so forth.

6. Under no circumstances should you become so swept in the Listening, that you find yourself blurting out the answer to a random question.  That’s less rude, and more disconcerting (and in the case of the man who blew his Listening cover to give me rapid, un-requested directions to the café bathroom yesterday, incorrect… so not worth blowing one’s cover for really).

Painefull Out