Finding the listenerby Penelope Starr on Nov. 11, 2009, under Arts
I was sitting at an outdoors cafe in the Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade last week, sipping some overpriced tea and trying to write a bit. I pulled out my Dell 9″ mini notebook and logged into the citywide free internet to check my email. It was a bit chilly by Tucson standards so I was trying to catch some rays by sitting closest to the pedestrian walkway.
A nicely dressed, middle aged woman carrying two shopping bags came up to me with a friendly smile and remarked that she’d never seen such a little laptop and wanted to know about it. Since I’m a polite person and because she seemed nice enough, I stopped what I was doing and answered some of her questions.
One half hour later, I knew her whole life story and the only reason she departed was because she had a hair appointment. Some of what I learned is that she is divorced, lives alone, has grown children, is an avid reader and wants to write a children’s book.
She told me that she lives a few blocks away from where we met and she frequents the Promenade on a regular basis. I think she is lonely and needs people to talk to. I think she needs to tell her story.
How often do you hear complicated stories from strangers? It happens to me a lot. I’m actually quite fascinated with hearing about people’s lives, what decisions they make and why. I’m also intrigued by the fact that people tell me such intimate details.
I still remember the woman who sat next to me on a long plane ride to Australia who’d just been to a reunion with twins that she’d given up for adoption 30 years ago. We ended up having a nice cry together. Or the sort-of-crazy-but-not-really old guy on a bus who gave me a great recipe for spaghetti sauce. I’ve heard tales of woe sitting on a barstool and sweet grandchildren stories while standing in line in a department store doing some holiday shopping.
I’m a listener and they find me.