Monday, April 26, 2010
Hang It Up
"What you do want from me? I’m a fucking human being!”
I was shopping in a vitamin store on 86th Street when I heard someone shouting those very words for the entire neighborhood to hear.
At first I thought someone was auditioning for a local production of The Elephant Man. But then I saw a young woman walking done the street shrieking into a cell phone.
Well, lady, I thought, since you claim to be a human being, perhaps you could act like one?
It wouldn't take much. You could just lower your voice, clean up your mouth, and keep your private business private. That would be a great start.
We’ve all gotten used to hearing bits of one-sided conversations as we pass people on the street and sometimes they can be quite loud. But this woman had reached a decible level so high she could have won a hog-calling contest--without leaving Brooklyn.
Her voice faded as she walked down the avenue and I dismissed the Jersey Shore reject from my mind, certain I'd never see--or hear--her again. But I was wrong.
I left the store and had only gone a few feet when I heard those wince-inducing tones once again.
I looked around and there she was, squatting on her haunches in front of jewelry store, still yakking into her cell phone as she waited for the bus.
I slowed down a little...actually I stopped dead in my tracks and started listening. Looking back, I must say it was pretty shameless, but it wasn’t like I was straining my ears. This woman could have been in the middle of the Mojave Desert for all the restraint she was showing.
She was speaking so loudly I wonder if perhaps she really wanted people to know her business--sort of like an emotional karaoke show.
Still, there was nothing keeping me there—except for my desire to eavesdrop. I could have kept walking, but I wanted to know what was going on here. And I got an earful.
From what I could decipher, this young lady was involved in a love triangle and she was reaming out her beau over his two-timing ways.
As she spoke, I peered down 86th, pretending to look for the bus in bogus anticipation, and listened to a tale of ugly threats, domestic abuse and late night booty calls.
And it got weirder. It appeared the two women knew each other. Apparently the other woman—it’s hard to say just who actually is the "other" in this saga—had visited my friend for a tête à tête.
“I despise her,” the girl shouted. “But she’s a part of you!”
That's a good line for a country song. I felt like I was watching a cable reality show. No wonder soap operas are going off the air. You can hear one just walking out of your house.
I wondered what this guy looked like since he had sparked so much passion in two women. I wish now I had taken notes, but that might have been a little bit too obvious.
The woman's voice toned down after a few minutes, I lost interest and started walking home. I got about a block away when I heard loud female voice.
“The car is going to crush you like a fucking pancake!”
Oh, no. Is Snooki II following me? Maybe's she angry at me for listening in on her phone call. But then I turned and saw a woman pushing a baby carriage and speaking to a little girl walking beside her who couldn’t have been more than five years old. The warning had been directed to the child, not me.
I applaud this woman for giving her daughter an important lesson in traffic safety, but I was appalled by her word choice.
I tried to imagine my own mother using the f-bomb as she gave me and my siblings such a warning, but I drew a blank. Mothers just didn’t talk that way back then—or at least not around me.
Then horns started going off and I saw guy stopped at the red light giving the finger to the driver behind him. Some days you wonder if you’re living on the right planet.
Maybe this is how human beings behave. Shout your intimate details at the top of your lungs, flip the bird in lieu of conversation, and talk to your toddler like a longshoreman. Perhaps the Elephant Man was right to put that bag over his head.
As I was walking down Fifth Avenue, I saw two little Mexican girls giggling as they played around a newly planted tree. They were having so much fun that just hearing them laugh cheered me up.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but what do you want from me? I’m a fucking human being.