I’m a beach eavesdropper. And I know you are too.
This past Tuesday, I spent a lazy vacation day with my husband on Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Here’s the thing about Crane Beach: it’s packed to the brim with people. (Since the water is too icy cold to swim in June, it feels especially crowded since everybody is on the sand and not in the surf.) It’s a spectacular beach with fabulous people watching. But as I learned firsthand, it’s not very quiet.
As I sat on my beach chair, only feet away from strangers, I couldn’t help but listen in to their conversations. The woman next to me, dressed in a fabulous peacock-colored one-piece, spoke with her sister about her boss, who allegedly plays favorites when it comes to granting vacation time at work. The woman’s husband, dressed in not-so-fabulous and way-too-short blue trunks, chimed in that the boss was probably having outside relations with another co-worker. I had no idea who these people were or who they were spreading gossip about, but lordy, it was entertaining.
A few hours later, they left, and a lone twenty-something bellied down on a towel in the sand. He pulled out his cell phone and called his buddy for advice about breaking up with his girlfriend. He hemmed and hawed in an ongoing monologue about wanting to date someone who wasn’t so selfish. At the end of the conversation, he decided to break it off. His second call was much more silent. I have a feeling she had the last word.
The internet tells me that the word “eavesdrop” was derived from the name of a person who used to sit near the eaves (or edges of the roof) just to listen to a private conversation. Clearly, anyone sitting outside your window to spy is a jerk. However, we need a new word for the act of innocently listening to others’ conversations. It’s impossible to NOT eavesdrop on conversations around you, even if they’re private, if the folks are speaking at a decibel that the third party can’t ignore.
In life, we’re either part of the conversation or we’re not. Yet, sometimes it’s fun and downright healthy to listen in on other people’s comments. It makes us realize the humanity in one another, for better or for worse. So, if you don’t want me eavesdropping on your conversation with your husband at the grocery check-out, then keep your voice down. But if you’re going to break up with your girlfriend ten feet away from me, know that I’m listening… and that there are other fish in the sea.