I like to keep track of dialog I overhear that strikes me as unusual. Not that I *listen* to other people’s conversations, understand. It’s just a professional hazard, having bits of conversations jump out at you while you’re sitting, minding your own business. I suspect pretty much any writer of fiction experiences this. I have a whole file full of little gems, and here’s one I picked up in New Orleans.
After a week of gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish in every possible configuration, we decided to try something outlandish, like Italian. Found a restaurant that was highly recommended, got ourselves out there by rental car. Northern Italian cuisine, heavy linen tableclothes and napkins, the wait staff very formal — you get the picture. So we’re waiting for soup and talking in this almost empty restaurant (it was quite early) and the only other occupied table is right behind us, two elderly couples. They were exchanging news about friends and family and so forth, got into politics for a while, and then fell into silence while they got ready to order. Then a querulous, confused voice said, “But I don’t see spaghetti and meatballs anywhere on this menu.”
It took me by surprise, and I nearly laughed out loud.
One of my all time favorite overheard comments was while I was in line at the grocery store in Ann Arbor. Two undergraduates, young women, seeing each other for the first time in the new fall semester:
Q: Hey Katie! How are you doing!
A: I got my wallet stolen in the taco isle at Meyers!
For years I’ve been thinking about this, and playing with it. So she got her wallet stolen. Sure, it’s an unsettling experience. But what’s the significance of the two prepositional phrases? Why qualify the statement that way? There’s definitely a story waiting to be told. Don’t know if I’ll ever get around to it.