Public Places and Eavesdropping
Forever Observing and Learning
As I sat in one of my local Tim Horton’s across the street from my work, getting myself settled in for the next hour an a half, I overheard the beginnings of what seemed like an interesting story. I was prepared to throw my teal over-the-ear headphones on to cover up the noise from the table next to me that was occupied by several older men. What I didn’t expect, was them growing quiet before I slipped on my music-blasters. They had started listening to one of the men, so I stealthfully joined them.
I also didn’t expect it to be a story that captivated me as much as it did. I had forgotten my restless desire to tune them out. I was now listening to the old man share his story of when he almost had an affair years ago.
He had met the attractive woman somehow (my hearing isn’t the greatest-thanks to how loud I listen to my music) and shared that he had even started driving to her house after she extended an invitation. He told them how he had known full well that if he accepted, there was no denying that he would end up giving in. At this point, I am getting a little sad for his wife. How could this man do this too her? But then he said, “…during the 5 minute drive to her house, I started thinking about what I was doing. I never made it to her house. I turned around and went home, and told my wife.”
My heart was still confused. Did that make him a better man? Did he really make a revelation for her benefit? I found out that he had thought ahead to the future and the effect that an affair would have on his family. His marriage would end, his two daughters would never speak to him again and he would make everyone in his family very unhappy. That had been his deciding factor. He turned around and went home. He said he knew he made the right choice when he told his wife and she took it with the approach of “how do we work through this?” The other woman just screamed at him for not coming over. He said he was thankful for his daughters for making him think about someone other than himself in a situation like that.
Have you ever eavesdropped on a strangers conversation?
Now hold on, I know this is a writing post. I have a point to tie it all together.
Sometimes, when creating a character, we try and make them really cool, or really smart, or just perfect in every way. It’s something that I am guilty of myself.
Hearing this man’s story, made me think about how close someone can come to compromising their honesty and integrity. Did his actions make him a bad man? Is he a better man for stopping himself before making a big mistake? Was his wife right for forgiving him for almost having an affair? These are all things that a writer must ask themselves about their characters. A good man can make mistakes, a bad man can do good things.
His story made me feel worried, stressed, concerned, and in the end, I would say I was proud of his revelation.
Writing in public areas can be a challenge when its loud and crowded, but I suggest giving it a shot. If listening in on other people’s conversations like a creep isn’t your thing (no judgement here) then I suggest finding a way to meet people who may have interesting stories to share so you can learn more about what makes a character more realistic. That’s what I learned sitting in a bustling Tim Horton’s leading right up to the time I started work.
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Please leave a comment if you have experienced a situation like this where it helped you in your writing and/or in your daily life!