They say London is one of the best cities in the world for people watching, and They aren’t wrong. As a solo traveler, I often unwittingly find myself eavesdropping on conversations of those within earshot, which is particularly rewarding in the UK.
If you want to not understand a word anyone says, even though they are speaking English, spend some time in Glasgow. If you want your child to learn every possible use of the word f*ck, take them to a football (you know, soccer) game in Liverpool. If you want to experience real comedy, hop aboard any last train on the Tube, sit back and soak it up. If you want to hear a solid lovers’ quarrel, sketchy tales of last night, content worthy of entire television episodes only suitable for HBO (or in the UK, any channel after 9 PM), go anywhere serving alcohol in the middle of the day and just wait…it will happen. People here certainly know how to entertain themselves, and thereby, me.
Then I unintentionally became the people part of the people watching equation. And it was super awkward. The following is a recount (to the best of my ability) of a conversation had with Angry Wife (the tourist with the crappy ass seats on the train from last post):
Characters: Angry Wife (AW), Angry Wife’s Husband (AWH), Me. (Yeah, you can see where this is going.)
Setting: Cafe in Gare du Nord train station, Paris, waiting for train back to London.
Act I – Uhh, what?
Scene: I had just gotten a beer and taken out my Kindle, when Angry Wife’s Husband recognized me from the tour and struck up a harmless conversation. Topics included: him being from Houston, but living in Saudi Arabia for his job as an engineer, my former job as a project manager for an IT healthcare company, the travel both jobs required, and how we learned to shut out our surroundings and catch some Zzzs in vehicles of transportation.
Enter: Angry Wife, coming in hot.
AW: <<Slams Coke bottle down on table>>
“Well, don’t let ME stop your conversation.”
Me to myself: Wow. Angry Wife really is actually always angry.
AW: No, seriously. Con-tin-ue. <<Angry glance in my direction>>
AWH: Oh, calm down.
AW: No YOU calm down. Once *muffle muffle* cheated *muffle muffle* trust *muffle muffle*…
Me: <<Blinks…turns away…sips beer…pretends to read book…>>
AW: *muffled aggressiveness toward AWH*
Exit: AW, AWH
Me to myself: Uhhh…what?
Act II: Once You’ve Been Cheated On
Scene: Approximately four minutes after AW and AWH depart the cafe.
AW: Excuse me?
Me: <<Really doesn’t want to, but looks up from book>>
AW: I’m sorry, but once you’ve been cheated on, you NE-ver forget.
AW: *Starts going into the cheating experience in detail*
Me: Whoa…lady, I’d rather not get involved with your personal life.
AW: Then maybe you shouldn’t have been talking to my husband.
Me: Yeeeaaah…I’m not sure what you think was happening, but we talked for two minutes about our respective jobs.
AW: Oh, sure you did. Sure. That’s how it all starts.
Me, not wanting to get involved with her personal life, battling with the fact I have no filter, and just annoyed she insulted my integrity: That’s how what starts? It’s a fairly normal conversation for people to have. It happens all the time.
AW: Noooo. No it doesn’t. <<shakes head knowingly, smug smirk>>
Me: Ooookay. It doesn’t.
AW: If you think you can just come in here and –
Me predicting where there is awkwardly heading: I didn’t go anywhere or do anything. He just –
AW: Oh, so HE started the conversation? F*cking bastard.
Me: Okay, I don’t want any part of whatever it is you two got going on. <<Turns back to book>>
AW: Oh god, don’t start. Obviously you’ve never been cheated on. If you had, you’d understand.
Me, insulted in general: Maybe I’m just smart enough to forgive and move on, or leave.
AW: Yeah, well, when you have kids, you can’t do that.
**AW and AWH were traveling with their two teenaged children who still live in America. Son 19, daughter 17. I had chatted with daughter previously.
Me, insulted, annoyed and over it: Seriously? Do people still use that excuse? You think this sort of behavior is better for them? They are RIGHT OVER THERE. They can see what you’re doing. You’re clearly miserable, and from the looks of it, so is your husband. If you’re trying to set a good example for your kids, no offense, but I’m not sure yelling at strangers in public is pulling it off.
ACT III: Awkward Aftermath
I can’t remember what she said next, because I began to shut down, but eventually she walked back to her family. I looked up to find everyone pretending they weren’t watching us. Come on people, I’m an expert people-watcher. You’re not fooling me. The couple next to me smiled sheepishly as our eyes met. I put my hands up in defense.
“I have no idea what that was. She’s a complete stranger.”
Couple laughs, “Well, you handled it well. I would’ve smacked her.”
Twenty minutes later I board the train, overly aware her family would be seated right behind me. Her daughter boards first and as she passes me, clearly embarrassed, she whispers, “I am so sorry. She’s a f*cking nutcase.”
“Oh gosh, don’t be sorry! I’m sorry! She’s clearly struggling.” I feel terrible for the daughter.
The wife and husband board. Son takes a seat and I hear him say he wants to fly home as soon as they get back to London, he’s sick of their crap. The entire ride back I can hear the husband saying, “Will you just shut the f*ck up?” to her quiet verbal attacks.
Okay, so I am clearly NOT an expert on this stuff. I’m sure my parents had their problems, like every married couple inevitably does, but they are happily married, 42 years. So no, I am not a child of divorce, I’ve never been married, never divorced, never had children. I don’t know squat. On the other hand, maybe that means I have an objective eye on all of this.
I probably should have done what I originally stated, not get involved, though if you know me, that’s like asking a fish to walk.
I was just annoyed and insulted and confused by the whole thing. No offense lady, at some point he may have been the apple of your eye, but he’s not exactly my type. Don’t automatically assume every woman talking to your husband has some ulterior motive. Fortunately, not everyone wants to sleep with your husband, including me.
So your husband cheated on you. Life didn’t turn out the way you expected. Join the club. I’m not trying to oversimplify a potentially very complicated, sticky situation, but the way I see it, you have two options. Somehow learn to forgive him and move on with your life together, or move on with your life without him. Note, neither of these options involve dragging your life, his life, and your kid’s lives through the shit-splattered toilet again and again, making everyone even more miserable. And certainly don’t air your dirty laundry in Paris train stations to total strangers. You look ridiculous.
And do not claim you’re staying together for the kids. Your kids are way too old to fall for that crap, and frankly, that’s a lame excuse and you know it, especially since you are openly hateful toward each other. Who is this helping, again? If I learned anything by *sort of* teaching high school, it’s that teenagers are intelligent, perceptive sponges that deserve so much better than what you think is best for them. And this crap is poison.
So, Angry Wife, get it together. Life will suck, especially if you let it. You only get one, and you’re wasting it. You are the only one who can make it better. Please. Do something. Because you’re killing my buzz.
That is all.