Maevesdropping: overheard conversations
To mark the release of ‘Maeve’s Times’, a book of Maeve Binchy’s journalism in The Irish Times, several of our writers spent the past few days doing what Maeve used to do: earwigging on other people’s conversations and writing about it
The man’s high-end racing bike has been left, wheels spinning, on the chock-a-bloc quays, and his face has turned an alarming shade of purple. Were he to have a stroke now it would hardly come as a surprise to the crowd of delighted onlookers who have missed the pedestrian lights on O’Connell Bridge for a second time so they can watch the spectacle.
The gridlocked taxi driver he’s shouting at mimes what looks suspiciously like a mock apology. It doesn’t appease the cyclist. Not remotely.
“You just f**king swerved right in f**king front of me... Did you not bother to even look? What is wrong with you? Well buddy I’m going to get the guards on to you. I have your f**king number. Do you know that? I have your number.”
He points at the taxi plate triumphantly and pauses before putting the word “pr**k” where the full stop normally goes.
The taxi driver rolls down his window. Slowly.
“You have my number? That’s great. Give me a call sometime, we’ll go on a date.”
He smiles, rolls his window back up, rounds the bike and drives off down the quays leaving the angriest man in the city to gawp like a goldfish before solemnly picking up his bike and continuing on his journey.
Health Centre, waiting room . . .
Woman 1: “None of me close friends did. Cos like, when you’re young as well you think: Oh God. Scarlet, kind of. Do you know what I mean?”
Woman 2: “No, I’ll stick to the bottles. My sister was the first one to do it and stopped because of the soreness of the chest. It was just too much hassle. Definitely not.”
Woman 1: “Did your mother do it?”
Woman 2: “In them days it wasn’t out, I don’t think.”
Woman 1: “I wouldn’t do it now to be honest with you. There’s certain places for certain things, do you know what I mean like? Like, I’ve seen people do it in Penneys and stuff like. I think that’s a bit out of order like.”
Woman 2: “Having to breastfeed the baby in public like. Things like that I just wouldn’t be into it, so I’d rather just like, have the bottle and go. People wear the ponchos and stick the baby underneath it, which you see coloured people doin’, which, I’d still feel embarassed. Just stick to the bottles and go.”
Southside cafe, Dublin . . .
Woman 1: “Friday afternoon, I was late meeting someone in town. I said sorry, I couldn’t get past all the Clare fans. Temple Bar is mobbed.”
Woman 2: “Oh hang on this happened to me too.”
Woman 1: “And he goes ‘Clare fans?’ And I said yeah, ‘Clare fans, they’re everywhere. They’ve taken over the Oliver St John Gogarty.’”
Woman 2: “The same thing happened me on Harcourt Street. I thought fair play to them, they’re really making a weekend out of it, starting the party early even though the match isn’t till Sunday.”
Woman 1: “And he goes ‘You’re joking right?’ Then he looks at me and says ‘No you’re serious.’ And I said ‘Blue and yellow is Clare isn’t it?’”
Woman 2: “I was looking at about 20 of them passing my office and thinking, God they’re awful good-looking ...”
Woman 1: “... and tall ...”
Woman 2: “... yeah, for fellas from Clare. Just what I was thinking.”
Woman 1: “And I think, what’s with all the long blond hair.”
Woman 2: “Blow-dried! Clare men don’t look after themselves to that extent. In my experience.”
Woman 1: “And the guy I was meeting goes ‘You feckin’ eejit. They’re the Swedes.’”
Woman 2: “I had that experience exactly. Mortifying.”
Macy’s Department Store, Manhattan . . .
“That girl has 99 problems and one of them is ugly,”said one pneumatic woman behind the counter to the other and of course I wanted to hear more but, for once, there was no queue at the till. That’s highly unusual at Macy’s because, even when a department has tumbleweed rolling through it, the minute you go to pay, a crowd gathers just ahead of you and chances are the person directly in front is returning everything they bought last week and buying it back at the sale prices, with additional coupons. It’s the American way.
No-one is going to hurry anyone in search of a discount but this time I was first in line and in no hurry to leave, it being 38 degrees outside.