Posted by: ktzefr | October 13, 2015

Coffee Shop Conversations…or The Joys of Eavesdropping

Mum's the word...

Mum’s the word…

I’ve always heard this advice: keep your eyes open and your mouth shut and your nose out of other people’s business.  Ears are not mentioned.  Oops!


Monday: Two older women. Regulars. Some days they come with a bigger group.

“She was telling me all this stuff that a boy did in school and I was getting madder by the minute. How could he treat Sophie like that? You know what a sweet girl she is…well, then she starts laughing when she sees me upset. He was some character in a book, for goodness sakes!


Wednesday: “He thought I was no more than 50. That’s what he said. Can you imagine?!”

The other woman is quiet. She’s smart enough not to express an opinion as her friend clearly hasn’t seen 50 in a long while.

“Of course, I cover the gray.” She laughs, twirls a few strands of hair. “You ought to do that. Add a little color.”

The other woman: “Why?”

Long pause. Should I turn around? Check out the facial expressions?

“Most people do,” says the fake brunette. “Cover-up the gray, that is. Well…a lot of people do.”

“Hmmm, yes,” says the other woman. “Some need to do that, I guess.”



Friday: “I don’t make fun of people who have no faith. Why do they make fun of me?”

“It’s politically correct.”


“Never mind.”

“People are hard to understand sometimes. I like dogs better.”

They both laugh, agree, start talking about their mutts – a lab and a poodle. They’ll get them together for doggie play time soon.



Three Hispanic guys sitting on bar stools by the window. Coffee in one hand, cellphone in the other. Sending texts or emails, watching You Tube videos, playing Candy Crush…who knows. They’re waiting for their friend Tonio to get off work. They come here often.

Outside the wind is blowing, a misty rain falling, a pretty blonde gets out of a BMW and crosses the parking lot hugging herself. Short sleeves. High heels.  Huge, expensive looking handbag. She slips in the door, passes the three guys at the counter on their cellphones. Three heads turn at once.

One says: “Ojalá fuera bizco para verte dos veces.” (I wish I were cross-eyed so I could see you twice.)

The two friends laugh. The girl turns away and smiles to the “audience,” buys a large caramel latte to go, and walks out looking warmer, more confident.   She recognizes a compliment when she hears it — even if she doesn’t have a clue what’s been said.



Guy at a table alone, with coffee and a bagel, backpack on the floor beside him, feet propped in the extra chair. He’s looking up at the TV on the wall. CNN with no sound. Turns to the man at the corner table who is engrossed in a book. Says…

“I can’t believe Putin.”


“Putin. The Russian.”

“Don’t think I know him.” Looks back down at his book.



Blue SUV squeezes into a parking place with the cars on both sides parked smack on the line. It’s the last spot in the small lot. Two young women in sweats, hoodies, ponytails burst through the door, letting in a gust of wind.

“I’d take it back,” says the tall one.

“Don’t know if I can. I bought it in June.”

“Oh. I’d still try. I’ve taken stuff back six months later.”

“Too much hassle. I’ll just give it to somebody for Christmas.”

Tall one: “Not to me! I hate that color.”

They buy two bottles of water. That’s it. Water sells for half the price at the store across the street where there is also a huge, half-empty parking lot.



Two elderly men talking about their ailments. Arthritis. Cataracts. GIRD. Backache. Back and forth, they compare notes, similar complaints. Each tries to outdo the other. Each provides examples as to why his condition is worse than the other. There’s a lot of “you have no idea” and “If you felt as bad as I do, you wouldn’t be…” and “my doc told me this” and “my doc told me that” and pretty soon they’re arguing about who has the best doctor.

“They’re not all created equal,” #1 says, raising his bushy eyebrows.

“You’re right about that,” says #2. “You’re absolutely right.”

Finally, they agree on something.



Two young women with children in strollers. Two in their terrible twos. A boy and a girl. Myron (or Bryan – it’s hard to tell) and Beth. Two sippy cups with cold, hot chocolate for the kids. The two women order: decaf cappuccino for Beth’s mom; high test for the mom of Myron/Bryan.

“I have to stay awake this afternoon,” she says. “He won’t nap.”

“Beth sleeps three hours every day,” says the little girl’s mom. “Like clockwork.” She gets up from the table and bounces over to the counter. The coffees are ready.    

“That’s great,” says Myron/Bryan’s mom. A bit sarcastic? Repeats in a lower voice, “just great.”

“You should read to him,” says the other woman, coming back to the table.

“I do. I read to him, rock him, walk him, sing to him. It’s the testosterone.”

“What?” the girl’s mom stops mid-sip, looks completely shocked. Over-reaction?

Myron/Bryan’s mom smiles, tosses her arms as if giving up. “Boys and girls are different.”

“I don’t believe that,” says Beth’s mom.

“Of course you don’t.” (The look on this woman’s face is fit to be photographed. Exhausted. Smug. Satisfied. All at the same time. She knows something the other doesn’t — boys and girls are different. )



A jogger and his black lab cross the street. He ties the dog to a table leg on the patio. Orders his “regular” with a big smile. The girl behind the counter in her big-rimmed glasses smiles back and hurries to brew his double shot of espresso. He picks up a local magazine off the counter and flips pages. She steals looks at him — the full-on, head-turning sorta stares.  

“Hey,” he says, glancing up from the magazine. “When do you leave work?”

She looks surprised. Huge smile. Points to the wall clock. “Forty-five minutes.”

I mentally cross fingers that she doesn’t drop the coffee on the way to the bar or spill it all over him when she gets there.

“Great,” he says. “I need to run across the street to the wine shop. Could you watch Jinx?” He motions toward the lab tied to the table on the patio.

“Uh…yeah. Sure.”

At least three other people in the shop have heard this conversation. People exchange glances. Strangers share a moment. The girl’s disappointment is palpable.



“What about Joaquin?” Barista says to man-in-suit waiting for a coffee to go and looking impatient.


“Joaquin. The storm.”

Man-in-suit turns and looks outside.

“The hurricane,” says the barista. “It’s headed our way.” He points to the TV on the wall. Big map on the screen of various possible scenarios for the direction of the coming storm. The map changes almost hourly.

“I’m jet lagged,” says man-in-suit. “Been in India for three months.”

“India? Really? Doing what?”

The man-in-suit looks slightly annoyed. “Training,” he says.

“Training to do what?” The barista is persistent if nothing else.

“Training people to explain how to fix your computer when you call tech support and think you’re talking to someone in…Boston. Newark. Milwaukee.”

“Oh.” Barista smiles. Hands man-in-suit his coffee to go. Says: “I use an IPad.”

The two elderly men at the next table who have spent the last hour talking about their physical ailments go quiet and look up at the same time.

“What’s an IPad?” says #1.

#2 shrugs, shakes his head. “Who cares.” Points to the TV overhead. “Stupid weather guys never get it right, do they?”


So…what have you (over)heard lately?



  1. Coffee shops are some of the best places for overhearing interesting conversations!
    And buses! I always hear some of the best interactions on busses!

  2. Oh these made me laugh!

  3. Nothing like a good cup of coffee and a little while to listen…

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