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Wednesday, November 6, 2002

public conversations

On the bus, train, in a restaurant or the computer lab, whether you're waiting in line at the bank for money, outside the box office for concert tickets, or in your chair for class to start, you will most likely overhear someone else's conversation. The low, humming rumble of someone else's voice suddenly becomes all that you hear, whether you choose to actually listen to it or not. (Listening to someone and hearing them are two different things, I learned whenever queried by my lecturing mother as to whether or not I "heard" her. "Of course I hear you mom," I would reply while I mockingly said to myself, "but I'm not listening.")

It's only until you actually listen to someone else's conversation that it really even matters that they're talking at all. It could be that two young women in the table next to you at the International House of Pancakes are waxing melodramatic about breaking up with their boyfriends. Or maybe they're sitting across from you at the computer lab, one of them patiently listening as the other recounts the horror that fell upon her after receiving a D on her Econ paper, especially since she's "never got a D in her whole life." Maybe as one bus driver pulls up to the next they salute each other and the cheerful weather. Maybe one of your roommates tells the other all about the wild night he missed out on because he had to stay in and study for a Physics midterm.

Whoever's conversation it is, whatever they are talking about, you are either:
1. Eavesdropping
2. Ignoring It
3. Or Being Annoyed

Each of the following are under-lied, I believe, by a simple jealousy. Although this may not always be the case, most of the time you are listening to them because you have no one else to talk to you.

Mundane conversation is taken for granted. Shooting the shit is a lot more than just rambling meaningless banter. When you talk to someone and they listen to you, you are having a conversation, a dialogue, and don't feel taken for granted. This dialogue forms the text of our life, the foreground to our background, and defines us.

Maybe not everyone feels jealous upon hearing someone else's conversation - they shouldn't. Maybe they should instead cherish the times they actually get to participate in one, even if it does highlight the trivial, everyday, and ordinary aspects of life.

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