Walking home the other evening, I was reminded of one of the things I’ve missed from the uncharacteristic distance we’ve all been keeping from our fellow pavement walkers for what feels like an eternity. I’m hoping it’s one of those revelations that you too will recognise and agree with, or I’ll have exposed myself as a serial eavesdropper!
It may have been due to the time of my journey being later in the evening, so tongues were looser and voices carrying with less traffic noise. But it reminded me that it’s been a long time since I’d heard those snippets of other people’s conversations that end up infiltrating your own thoughts as you pass.
How can you not hear a sentence like “The thing is, that’s all very well but it affects my life as I can’t decide on any aspect of it until I know”, without being tempted to slow your pace to find out ‘know what’? Thankfully, on this occasion, I didn’t even have to as the couple sped up to walk at my speed. I assume to try and continue their conversation outwith the hearing of the rest of their meandering family group. They were either oblivious to my presence, or I must have been wearing that invisibility cloak I seemed to have unwittingly acquired since the age of 50!
Further along the road, and the part of a young couple’s exchange which floated across the night air was “But that’s why I fall out with you, you never listen to my opinion”. Fortunately, they were walking in the opposite direction to me as I had the feeling this snippet might perhaps be the catalyst to a more heated discussion! Wincing, I didn’t want to chance my invisibility cloak slipping off by turning round to check.
I managed to get home without further distraction but was reminded this morning that these scraps of other’s conversations can also act as public health warnings.
A father was rushing towards me obviously on the school run, trying to negotiate a child and a twisting toddler in a pushchair across a pedestrian crossing before it turned red. The school-aged child was very concerned that his father had missed something on the pavement they were leaving behind.
“Did you see that daddy?”.
“Yes”, was the grimacing response, “It was a very nasty dog poo, they mustn’t have been well at all”.
He wasn’t kidding. If it hadn’t been for the warning, I don’t think I would have been very well either if I’d had to clean my shoe after skidding on what was waiting for me on the offending pavement!
And, in case you’re of the same mindset as me and prefer to know the facts rather than just contemplate the options … that person who felt all aspects of their life were currently suspended was having to wait for the worldwide location of their partner’s next job to be decided. Makes the feelings they expressed seem far more reasonable once in context!
This column appeared in our Spring 2022 newsletter. If you would like future editions of our quarterly workplace wellbeing newsletter sent directly to your inbox, please sign up here.