One of the great perks of being a writer: I get to spend copious amounts of time in coffee shops, “working” and eavesdropping on other patrons. Come mid-week, I often get a bit antsy from all the hours spent toiling away alone inside my house, so I’ve taken to venturing out among the cafes of Northeast Portland with my laptop and my crap Sony headphones, so that I might dodge my solitude and work awhile amongst the vox populi. The subtly buzzing crowds of students or moms or unemployed or creatively employed or service industry employed folks who frequent such spots of an idle Tuesday afternoon alongside me never fail to fascinate. Often, I’ll work with my headphones on but no music playing just so I can listen in totally undetected.
By far the most consistently interesting snatches of conversations I pick up are those that occur between female friends. Women have a charming knack for turning any social setting into a makeshift confessional booth. Bathroom stalls, phone booths, side by side stools in a busy bar, then, later in the evening, the broken curbs outside of said busy bars – some news just can’t wait. And I don’t judge. I’ve performed the perambulation many, many times myself and find it to be an enormously comforting ritual. There is nothing in this world quite so soothing or ministerial as the ready ear of an old friend, tuned finely to your most secretive rumblings as you reveal the workings of your inner soul in some very public place or other.
Thusly, two conversations overheard in Portland. Both between female friends in Portland coffee shops. Both their own kinds of age-appropriate Hail Marys.
One pair of female friends looked to be about 20. One pair looked to be about 30. Can you guess which is which? I think you can.
Anna Banana’s Coffee Shop, Alberta Street, Portland
You were like I just wanna have fun wanna have fun. And we were like you are having fun and now it’s time to go home. And you were like I wanna go home to San Diego. No one here understands me.
I had a little bit of that tequila. I had a beer at home. The place we went to I had two beers.
No I didn’t.
At the show.
No I didn’t! I had beer.
And shots. Right before we left.
You did. And then you did three shots of fireball at Shanghai and one other shot.
Barista Coffee Shop, Alberta Street, Portland
My ex-boyfriend had a baby.
It’s ok. I knew his wife was pregnant. We’re not friends, but I want to see what it looks like. I hope it’s ugly. Although I know that all babies are cute.
That’s not true.