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Eavesdropping

“I don’t know how they managed to enjoy their meal with such a heated exchange between them.

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I was rereading on Wattpad the script of Gaya sa Pelikula by Juan Miguel Severo when one scene struck home. In this scene, a teacher is asking his students a retelling of a conversation they have heard. It was really an eavesdropping exercise where the students get to exercise their creative bent.

What I found amusing is that, as a writer, you cannot help not overhear people’s observations whether you are on an assignment or not. It’s instinctive after years of coverage.

It’s a talent reporters must have, too, because you have to have a feel of the person you are writing about to recreate his tone of voice, his inflections, his choice of words. These are things you cannot transcribe. These are details you must be able to add to give life to your subject.

It is something you learn the hard way, through trial and error, through constant practice.

Just a few days ago, I was within earshot of a couple arguing over money. I was lined up at a fast-food chain when it happened.

As I was waiting for my turn at the counter, this couple hurriedly walked in after they had their temperature check. The man had taken off his face shield while the woman wore hers over her head.
I was trying to avoid listening to them but they were just so loud.

“How much did you give them? And will we get anything out of it,” the man said in a voice loud enough to be heard above the piped-in music.
The woman shushed him because people could hear them.

By that time, it was my turn at the counter and I was focused on ordering my takeaway.

When I was done, I moved to the waiting area for my order. But wouldn’t you know? Here came the odd couple, the man huffing in anger. They sat at the table next to mine.

Even if there was an acrylic divider between them, the woman went to the side of the table to talk clearly with the man.
“Don’t worry I’ll follow it up. Just leave it to me,” she said.

By this time their face shields were off and the man had taken off his mask.

“How much more do we have to wait here,” the man impatiently asked. Apparently, they were waiting for their turn at the government office next door.
“They will give us a call…”

“Next time you plan to give away 30,000 of my money you tell me first. I don’t care if he’s your cousin. I don’t trust him at all,” the man cut here.

Their argument was cut short when the cashier came to give them their change. It seemed there was a problem in the orders that had to be recomputed.
“There I finally got your order. There’s the receipt.”

Then, the woman hastily threw the receipt at him.

“There’s your order she pointed out.”

“Next time before you decide to do anything with my money, be sure to always ask me first,” he emphasized.

I don’t know how they managed to enjoy their meal with such a heated exchange between them. I didn’t bother to find out because I moved to the riders’ waiting area, afraid that they might come to blows. With their masks off, I didn’t want to be their collateral damage.

In a few moments, a server called my name and handed over my order. I had no further reason to stay and promptly stepped out of the store.

Of course, that’s not the only kind of conversation I’ve heard at restaurants. I’ll save the breakup stories for Valentine’s Day.

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