The Inanity of Youth


One of the perks of being a writer is the joy of guilt-free eavesdropping in public places. I love being able to listen to the conversations of strangers and justify it to myself as “research”.

Because it is.


So today I found myself in a coffee shop. I’m on a tight deadline for a short story I’m writing, so took advantage of my husband having a day off work to try to do some writing. Sadly, I’d forgotten that I don’t write particularly well in coffee shops.

There’s too much “research” to be done.

Shortly after I arrived, a couple of people sat down at the table next to mine. A male and a female, cousins I think, about nineteen years old.

“Did you know that all Americans hate avocados?” the girl said.Β 


“I don’t know. Americans just don’t like healthy food.”

Yep. There’s nothing like a gross generalisation to get the conversation rolling.

After about fifteen minutes of “research”, I’d learned that said girl, let’s call her Nicole, had just returned from a six month working holiday at Disneyworld in Orlando and was quite eager to show off her knowledge of all things American.

“In America, everyone always complains,” Nicole said. “About everything.”

“That sucks. So are you going back?” asked her cousin. (Let’s call him Fred.)

“Yeah! I can’t wait!”

Seems reasonable. I like to go back to places where “everyone” spends all their time complaining, too.

“To Orlando?” asked Fred.

“No. Before I left I figured I wouldn’t be back, so I just didn’t bother doing anything at work, and I stole a heap of stuff. They probably won’t give me my job back.”

Y’think? Also, it occurs to me to wonder if perhaps this is what “everyone” was complaining about.

The conversation moved on from Nicole’s exciting life and over to Fred’s.

“I really miss Ben,” he said.


“I just haven’t seen him in a while. Like, not since my birthday last week.”

You know what I really miss? Interesting conversations.

Anyway, Nicole and Fred blathered on for a bit longer about inane topics like which one of their mutual friends was the most logical, whether the rain today was heavier than the rain last night, and which English accent is the coolest.

Eventually they left. I gave a sigh of relief, commented on Facebook that the kids of today are dumb, and went back to work.

Ten minutes later, a group of women sat down at the same table. There were five of them, all in their mid-thirties or forties.Β 

“All the mothers from that other school are so snobby,” said Mum 1.

“I know!” said Mum 2. “What’s with that?”

After half an hour of talk about bikini waxing, “hilarious” stories of people injuring their middle fingers, and arguments over which one of their mutual friends was the most emotional, I’d had enough.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it’s not young people who are inane.

Maybe it’s just people.

Have you overheard any interesting conversations recently while you were “researching”?


Filed under Random Stuff

16 responses to “The Inanity of Youth

  1. My friend, Brian Buckley, is coming down this weekend while the little red-haired girl is away in San Francisco. Last time he was over we went on one of our frequent visits to Half Price Books and enjoyed one of our favorite past-times, talking about books, not only the ones we like, but the ones with funny titles, and the things we can’t believe are on clearance. Brian buys a lot better books than I do, at least in physical form, and I was on another one of my kicks to bring a bag full of stuff out of my house and come back with less than I brought in. I think we were talking about my move to mostly reading digital when another woman in the aisle jumped into the conversation. We had no idea who this person was, but Brian and I are pretty friendly and adaptable people and had a nice little chat about books we like and how I like my Kindle (I think that was the subject, Brian may remember better). In America, or at least my part of the mid-west, jumping randomly into someone else’s conversation, even one held in a public place, is typically a risky endeavor, one liable for you to end up rudely rebuffed. But I think Brian and I are all for it. It’s fun not only to listen but garner fresh perspective.

    As for coffee shops, not many people to talk to at 5:30 in the morning, and I typically wear the earbuds to help me focus on my work, but occasionally I’ll take one out if an interesting conversation seems to be happening nearby.

    Great post Jo!

    • Thanks, Ben! Around here, people getting involved in your conversations is a accepted, if not entirely common-place. Especially in a place like a bookstore (new or second-hand). I hope you and Brian have a great time over the weekend — I trust I’ll be reading about it on both your blogs next week. πŸ™‚

  2. Nothing like somebody who comes home and complains about how much Americans complain. I guess it’s contagious. πŸ™‚

  3. First, I get sidetracked all the time due to ‘research’. It’s exhausting, eh? Alas, we care deeply for our work, and well – research is required if you want your work to be accurate.
    Second, I’m leaning towards people in general. Though, by doing that I am generalizing, and I hate to generalize.
    Your words (which were excellent) remind me of this comic:

    • Hahahaha. I actually read that comic a few days ago. Very much in keeping with this post. πŸ™‚ I’m so glad you get actively involved in ‘research’ as well. Nice to know I’m not alone. πŸ™‚

  4. LOL – Oh I love research too – but more often the conversation is more mundane. The best one I actually overheard was my children discussing driving and mortality:
    Son (6): I’m not gonna to get my drivers license.
    Daughter (4): Why?
    Son: Because Mum will drive me.
    Daughter: What about when you grow up?
    Son: Mum’s still going to drive me. (Pause) What’s going to happen when Mum dies? (Wide eyes) Whose gonna to drive me then…
    Was so pleased they had really thought through my mortality… need a lift anyone?

  5. For the record, we have about 6 avocados waiting to become guacamole. We would have 7 but I ate it in two intervals in two separate turkey wraps. If you want a crazy conversation, go see my Uncle Grampa. He wants to know when tomorrow is.

    • I love the stories about your Uncle Grampa. As for avocados, clearly there is one of two things happening here. (1) You don’t really have avocados at all, this is all part of an avocado conspiracy. (2) You’re not really American.

      Because clearly this generalisation about American eating preferences couldn’t possibly be wrong.

  6. MerylF

    This is why I don’t like people.

  7. You know what’s the worst? When we Americans complain about avocados. It happens all the time…

  8. The gym – a place of endless research. Unfortunately, all anyone ever talks about is their pets or shopping. Mostly shopping. They all know all the online places, all the malls, all the sales. It’s like I live on another planet, just a writer sitting at home in my sweats, occasionally donning a clean sweatshirt to go to the coffee shop. Sometimes I forget to change out of my bedroom slippers. I cannot relate to other humans anymore. Just as well. I am content.

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