Jem Beedoo

Jem Beedoo is an Auckland writer

Jem Beedoo: Listen up because you may just learn something

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How do people not monitor volume to ensure no one, other than those they're addressing, hear them? Photo / Katikati Advertiser
How do people not monitor volume to ensure no one, other than those they're addressing, hear them? Photo / Katikati Advertiser

Oh, the things your ears overhear from people seated just over there! It's enough to make you forget everything. Whether it's addicts discussing programmes, tradesmen discussing music or mums discussing sleeping patterns, you just never seem to miss out on anything.

A man may be headed first-class to Arizona to get clean and buy 10 brand new guitars, and you're all the wiser. Another will argue 'til he's blue in the face that Paradise City is the greatest track in Rock n Roll ever. And a mother will let you know Gabriel awoke six times after 2:15am. Imagine if we were all private detectives, everyone'd be locked up.

How do people not monitor volume to ensure no one, other than those they're addressing, hear them? Are they willing to be the focal point of a perfect stranger's breakfast? Or are they just plain unaware? It just really astounds me how one can go for a mere 10 minutes to a cafe and know everything about someone's godson's brother-in-law.

Who arranged it thus? It just so happens we learn everything from listening-in, whether we like it or not. And, boy, do we overhear some humdingers!

"Evidently, after Graham left Hilda, he moved to Lower Hutt where he could be closer to his first daughter, Jannin, from his second marriage. It was such a difficult time, his leaving the big city behind, but as he said: 'Life is all about compromises.' It's a shame he had to leave, really, because I felt I was getting emotionally close to him. Anyway, he was such a good flatmate; he could cook, clean, sing, sew, fix things up and paint. I'm sure Jannin will love being nearer to him. From what he tells me, he's such a good Dad."

You get to the point where the tears well up in your eyes. We listeners-in are subjected to it all.

And some of the voices and accents you hear, by gosh. There are the huskies, gravellies, squeakies, shouties and sighees. And then there are the thick Kiwi accents, the foreign ones, the unintelligible ones. The list goes on.

Interestingly, when, for instance, you hear a husky-voiced woman talk in a strong Kiwi accent for a good 10 minutes without turning round to look at her, you often presume you know what she looks like. You have a pretty good idea she's, let's say, a mid-twenties, blond-haired, fake-tanned, short-skirted, big-busted real estate agent. Then you take a look at her and your conjecture couldn't have been further from the truth: she happens to be a 55-year-old, skinny, little, nervous librarian with a hairpiece. This is called the case of the face not corresponding with the voice, and it happens most frequently on buses and at sporting fixtures.

During these ignominious situations, you really get put through the grind. In addition to being stuck, you're closer than humanly comfortable to some of these careless chatters, so not only do you get the full force of their voice and conversation, but the full force and smell of their breath.

So, if you don't mind other people's business, be on the listen-out, for "careless talk" only ever "costs lives", as the axiom goes. "Careful listening-in", on the other hand, will only cost you your peace of mind. But, hey, enjoy!

- NZ Herald

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