November 15, 2015
It’s hard to avoid a little inadvertent eavesdropping when you are waiting for breakfast by yourself at a quiet restaurant. The two guys at the adjacent table are also waiting for their food, but they are engaged in an intense conversation over things like “core samples” and some sort of foibles that have occurred of late that will require them or their partners to redo something not done properly. The conversation seems to be about drilling of some kind, but I don’t think they are dentists. They drone on. I’m not really trying to listen, and my coffee is much more interesting in any case. After my oatmeal shows up and I have creamed and sugared it to my taste, I’m working through my daily regimen of morning medicine and happen to catch a few more snippets of their exchange. Now things have moved on and the topic has turned to Peyton Manning and last week’s loss to the Colts. It’s something else I’m not deeply inclined to listen in on, but at least I can make a little more sense of the apparent concern being expressed about whether the Broncos are really as good as their record would suggest.
Next morning I’m seated in a different area of the same restaurant near a table with two women, both younger than me, but between 35 and 50. I overhear something about a rehearsal dinner and am trying to tune them out, but the topic segues into shopping for dresses and the pair are quite animated, if certainly well within the range of decorum one would expect at a place with white tablecloths. The detail on colors, styles and how they make them look is a little embarrassing to listen to, but strangely compelling, too. Eventually my coffee is enough of a distraction and I am able to tune out this conversation at least until my bran muffin shows up. Their food has arrived as well and just like the morning before I catch a few more lines of the conversation, which has now turned to contracts, expectations and foibles. One says, “I see that I did not ask the right question.”
So both of these couples are conducting business over breakfast—something I do very rarely. The men apparently got right down to it, finishing all the tough stuff about digging holes over their coffee and juice, leaving plenty of time for exchanging sports-talk once the omelets arrived. The women might have been friends or relatives planning an event at the hotel I was staying at given their OJ and coffee talk, but that turned out to be pleasantries that were being exchanged until the serious food arrived, at which point they got down to business. And clearly one of them had a pointed message that she wanted to get across to the other.
Now, I’m just sayin’, but do you think there was some kind of gender/food thing going on here?
Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University