If there's one thing I'm really good at doing, it's the ability to inconspicuously eavesdrop on the conversations of strangers. Years of journalism training have taught me to pretend to be otherwise occupied while, in fact, I'm listening to every word being said around me.
The trouble with having such a skill is that I only get one side of the story because so few conversations are held face-to-face these days. Add to that the fact that I live and work in a fast-paced urban environment and it means that I can only eavesdrop a sentence or two before the subject has walked past me.
Nevertheless, I have a small note pad upon which I jot down interesting things I overhear during the course of daily life. Here are just a few of them from this month.
"And so I said, I'm not going to give a homeless man money to buy drugs when I can't afford to buy them for myself." --Man talking to friend, Meridian and Ohio streets, July 1
"That woman is too skinny, man. I bet my penis weighs more than one of her legs." --Same conversation
"You just go over there and steal it back. It's our backyard, too." --Mother talking to child on cell phone, downtown, July 23
"Why did you put the dog in the refrigerator? That ain't no place for a dog to be." --Same conversation
"I'm never going to underestimate the ability of men to start shit where there is no shit." --Young woman on cell phone, Monument Circle, Sunday
"I said meatloaf, not BEETloaf. I don't even know what a beetloaf is. I don't even think there is such a thing." --Man in suit talking to friend, downtown, July 2
"I'm so glad that he's going out of town this weekend. Girl, I'm so tired, all I'm going to do is put on Lifetime, take off my clothes and go to sleep on the couch." --Woman on cell phone, downtown office building, July 19
"They're still using Windows 98 and they asked me how to fix their problem. I told them to go buy a calendar, see what year it is, then call me back." --Man on cell phone, Monument Circle, July 14
"And so she told me we should hope for the best and plan for the worst. Then I told her, 'The worst has already happened, woman. Quit hoping and start planning.'" --Man on cell phone, Northside grocery store, July 12
"So this idiot is trying to make a left-hand turn into a church and almost hits me. I yelled out the window, 'You better pray, bitch.'" --Same conversation
"He was hollering and fussing at me and I told him that if he didn't shut up, I'd smack him so hard that I'd have to start changing two sets of diapers instead of one." --Woman to friend, downtown bus stop, July 11
"I got offered a job cleaning old men's houses in my underwear." --Overheard conversation by a friend, posted to Twitter, July 24
There are dozens, if not hundreds, more of such comments to be eavesdropped upon by me. I'm going to keep my notepad at the ready and report back when events warrant.
There are a couple of items from the past few weeks I need to clarify, since I've gotten so much e-mail about them. No. 1: In my measured criticism of The Indianapolis Star a few weeks back, I negligently omitted the name of Dan Carpenter as an example of the best of what the newspaper can offer. Mr. Carpenter doesn't need me as a defender; his insightful columns over the past few decades have established him as one of the all-time greats of local journalism. My omission of him was a complete oversight, but it's a measure of the high standing in which he is held that so many people e-mailed me complaining I didn't mention him.
On another topic, there is still no sign of our missing cat, Tisha, who ran away about two months ago. The dozens of flyers we posted in our neighborhood led to a few false leads and a few crank calls. We can only hope she is safe and sound in a new home, or that she's happy traveling the city that she loves so much. Thanks again to all the readers who expressed their concern.
Thanks for writing -- and, more importantly, thanks for reading.