I was sitting at the Barnes & Noble Starbucks trying to write my blog a few nights ago and it didn’t take long for me to mumble, “Crap! I forgot my headphones.”
Two middle-aged women sat five tables away from me with opened textbooks in front of them as if they were there to study. Unfortunately for me they paid no attention to their books. Instead, one of the women rambled on endlessly while her friend nodded and said "Uh-huh, uh-huh."
I tried to write a story about life in the islands, but continued to spend more effort trying to tune them out than I was on my writing.
"Tune them out, Brian. Just tune them out." I repeatedly whispered to myself as my fingers sat idle on the keyboard. I thought I was successful in tuning them out until I realized their voices were only being muffled by my voice saying “Tune them out, Brian” Then I started saying, "Stop talking to yourself, Brian. Stop talking to yourself."
I drew my hands off the keyboard and set them in my lap. I closed my eyes and sat back in my chair, took a deep cleansing breath and tried to focus on the sound of a flowing river or leaves rustling in a breeze. As I took my second deep cleansing breathe, the louder of the two loud women, the non-stop talker, said, "And I know she doesn't like me because she said..." The sentence went on forever and her voice sounded like fingernails on a blackboard. I tried desperately to make it stop coming into my ears. “We’re thinking about painting the house, but I don’t know. Hey. Did you know that….” The noise did not stop pouring in.
My jaw clinched and in a matter of only a few minutes my thoughts had gone from "Tune them out," to "Stop talking to yourself, Brian," to "Take deep breaths and relax," and finally to "Throw your coffee mug at them! Throw it now!" Then my thoughts jumped from "Focus on the screen," to "Hey! Shut the hell up over there."
I looked around the room to see if anyone else was being bothered by the gossip hounds. There were two college girls who were either snickering at the absurdity of the women’s conversation or they were snickering at the stressed look on my face and the blood veins popping in my forehead. One of the girls whispered something and they both giggled. I presumed she said something like, "If they don't shut up soon I think he's going to blow."
I tried with no luck to write a couple more times before resigning myself to near failure and I fell back against my chair. This time I wasn't trying to focus. I was on the verge of giving up.
With one last surge of determination and a last ditch effort to salvage something, I decided to eavesdrop and listen instead of trying to ignore. After all, anyone who could talk for thirty minutes at a stretch on a single breath must have something to say, right? RIGHT?
"And when I got off work I went to.... and then we went to Target. Did you know they were having a big sale? Our dog is shedding everywhere and my gawd, it's driving me crazy and... and... and... AND... AND..."
"SHUT UP, LADY! JUST SHUT UP!" was running through my head when it hit me. It all seemed so obvious. Write about the perpetually clueless, oblivious to all others, gabbing women. Salvage something out of the experience. And then the universe rewarded me with a twist of humor for hanging in there.
After her marathon sentence, the perpetual talker finally came up for air. She paused and then said, “Well, I guess we should study for a while.” She looked down at her open book and began quizzing the “uh-huh” woman. “So, what is the definition of Transcendental Meditation?” And I smiled.
Sometimes all you can do is accept what life throws in your face and smile.