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For some time I’ve been interested in (all right, obsessed with) listening to people’s conversations as they eat in public. I know it’s perhaps unethical to pry, but it’s a public place—what are they expecting? And I’m proud to say I accomplish my objective—mining this essential raw material—very discretely. (I don’t stare, I don’t take notes—well, if I do, I pretend to be jotting down something I’m thinking about.) And it’s not as if I transcribe directly; it’s more like a prompt. Mostly. Sometimes.

I worry sometimes that if people really knew what they were saying while they’re eating, they’d probably stop talking completely. And that would be a disservice to all us writers. So please don’t mention my habit to anyone. As an enducement to your cooperative quiet, I’m sharing here the first in an irregular series of, what?monologues from those eating, based on what they’ve ordered. In this case … 


 God, I hate coffee shops. They always put too much mayonnaise on these things and why is rye toast so difficult? Tomato like cardboard.  …Can’t anyone do anything right?

Why did you order beets? I’m your mother, I know you hate them. Why are you using that beet to make designs on your placemat? Put the beet back in the dish for god’s sake. Is this like the oatmeal this morning? And don’t give me that look. I am so tired of your looks. Use words for god’s sake. Clear the air for once.  Oh, never mind.

Why are you wearing your cheerleader uniform now? Showing off for… Aren’t you supposed to be in history this afternoon or something, learning something?  

I don’t get you.  I’m not the one who needed this conference. Family counseling. As if talking to a stranger was going to… What is that sigh? One more and I… If you’re going to be mad at anyone, be mad at your father.  Daddy-Do-No-Wrong. His idea. And of course he’s late. …This sandwich is foul. …I’ve got a 1:30 back at the office, had to pick you up from school. I take any more time away from the office, they’re going to…

Do not pick up your phone. I swear I will take it away and you won’t see a phone until you leave for college, bless the day when that miracle happens. And don’t put it in your lap and think I don’t know that you’re texting Susan, all right Stephanie, whoever.  You and your so-called friends. 

Listen to me, Miss Perfect. Show some respect or it’s military boarding school. Don’t test me. 

Here’s your father. You smile, dammit. Remember. I’m not the one at fault here. 

Hi, dear. You have time for a bite? Try the BLT.