Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Dangers of Eavesdropping

I was given the good advice once that you should never get into conversation with the people sitting beside you on busses, trains or planes. Of course I didn’t listen to it and had to learn the hard way, because even the most fascinating piece of small talk is only good for ten minutes. Three hours later you might feel like slitting your wrists only that this is the real reason they don’t let you take knives onto planes.

What about other peoples’ conversations though? I was on the bus today from Dublin to Galway and just couldn’t help overhearing the new friendship between a Swiss woman and some sort of half German/half Irish guy who didn’t know his arse from his elbow. I am calling the Swiss girl ‘woman’ as this is politically correct, but if you ask me; anyone under 30 is a child and has not yet reached the age of bitter and twisted reason.
So she’s here to do a language course and has just spent two days sightseeing in Dublin before boarding the bus to Galway. She tells him that all of her friends who have done language courses let her know that Galway was the place: it’s small and cosy and friendly, Dublin is too big and dangerous. I’m itching to interject already. I want to tell her that not too long ago one of her compatriots on a language holiday was raped and murdered by a man who’d still be hanging out in Galway if he’d only raped and robbed and injured her instead. But the Halfling is telling her that she’s made the right decision, and that Dublin, after all, has a population of 1.9 million. What? I decide that this Mr Nice Guy was homeschooled, so I allow him live his dream of the almost 2 million populated metropolis of Dublin and listen to the now chums – they’ve exchanged names at this stage, talk about how shocking the high heels of the Dublin girls are, and how she has only got her runners with her. They both smugly agree that runners make a lot more sense than high heels. So I’m there thinking that if I’m pushing 50 and still try to squeeze into the odd heel, how come these young ones think that a pair of Adidas runners will be a big hit in the Galwegian disco?
At this stage I decide it’s battle or my iPod. I have those fancy head phones that you can blare up and nobody hears you, and you hear the music full force but you also hear yourself swallow, and a yawn sounds like a Tsunami. I can’t help it, but in between songs I get a few seconds of ‘the sheeps, so many sheeps.’ For God’s sake, whether he’s moving in on the girl or not, could he not just tell her, in anticipation of her English course that the sheeps don’t come with an S. And worse, there are no sheep. Possibly we had passed two or three stray sheep somewhere along the road, but she kept on looking out into empty pastures reiterating the same words: ‘the sheeps, so many sheeps.
I put on my glasses to check if the white lines on the road are maybe stray sheeps that I hadn’t recognised, but even with the glasses they still look like white lines. He’s telling her that Galway is a hippy laid back city and I’m choking on the anger of the election results that always show Galway up as being the most conservative corner on the planet.
When we arrive he offers to help her with her bags, but apparently she can manage, so nothing major has come of the encounter. I get a taxi home and the Ghanian driver catches me up on the latest election results for Galway. He won’t tell me what he voted, other than that it was for change.
I’m exhausted from all this eavesdropping so I decide to go to the gym and work off all the frustration of non existent sheeps and high heels in the city of two million peoples. I think it’s worked until I go into the changing rooms. I have a habit of leaving my gear in a locker that will be surrounded by other people when I come back, even though the rest of the lockers are all free. So these two women are there, talking in Irish. Not your proper Connemara Irish, mind you. No, this is what I would call the parents of the Gael Scoil childrens’ Irish. The women who want to start an Irish speaking revolution by gossiping as Gaelige and rubbing designer handbags together. They’ve obviously been gossiping for a very long time as one of their children is flat out asleep on the floor of the changing room, right in front of where I’m supposed to change. So I do the thing that changing rooms were originally made for: I take off my clothes and put on my swimsuit to go for a nice relaxing post work out bathe. It doesn’t seem to phase them or impact on their conversation that a middle aged woman with the features of a small walrus is standing butt naked between them, so I wonder if I’m missing out on some serious eavesdropping as I stroll down to the pool.
It’s been a stressful day, but I still can’t bring myself to tell the families noisily splashing about that it’s actually well past the time for children to evacuate the pool. I just swim up and down like a little baby seal, or possibly like a more mature one, and head on in to the sauna. This is supposed to be my fifteen minutes of heat and silence, but no. Three little munchkins who are using fake I.D.’s to access the gym are in there talking about all the contacts they have for buying alcohol illegally. I’m dying to give them a few tips from my own day, but I remember the thing about not getting into conversation with people on busses and I decide to extend it to saunas.
My last port of call is the outdoor whirlpool. There are two large men talking about the match. I wonder what match it was and try to hear them, but seconds after I enter the whirlpool, it stops whirling. The two men get out and I push the button to start it again.  I’m on my own. Great things happen to women in whirlpools on their own. All of a sudden I feel lonely though. It’s time to go home, I think. This time, the changing rooms are empty. I wonder if the Swiss woman has settled in with her host family, and did she give the two million man her number. And what about the Irish speaking ladies, would they ever think of trying out French?
I pull in to the shops on the way home to get milk. There’s a man behind me in the queue. He’s on the phone. ‘Up all night’ he says, ‘three and a possible fourth’. It’s lambing season out this way, and I’m curious all right, but I don’t wait to ask him if this is about sheeps or high heels. It’s time for bed.

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