Forget coffeeshops, forget airplane terminals, forget park benches. If you want to do some quality people watching, go to the locker room of your local gym.
I was in there last week, changing clothes, and a woman, mid 50's, was on the bench next to me, talking into her cell phone. She was no nonsense in her tone.
"No. No. It has to ship by 3 today. Today. Call Mark and he'll give you what you need. (Pause) I don't care about that. Tell Leslie we're moving it forward. And three o'clock. Okay. I'm on my way in."
Nothing unusual about that conversation except for the fact that the woman was stark naked as she had it. With one foot up on the bench. Facing me.
She hung up the phone and looked over at me. "Ha ha! Wonder what they'd think if they knew I just had that conversation with them while I was naked!"
I held eye contact. Really, really strong, steady eye contact. "I know, funny," I said.
"Well," she said (that one foot still up on the bench), "I figure men over the years have called in often enough from the golf course that I can afford one or two calls in from the gym."
"Uh-huh, right," I said.
She then proceeded to have a 5-minute conversation with me about the role of men/women in business and her company in particular. All the while, her towel was on the bench beside her and her clothes in the open locker next to her. I had to wonder if it crossed her mind why, during the course of our conversation, I never once blinked. Lovely conversation though. Smart woman with a lot to say.
Then there was the knee-high conversation. This is a favorite of mine. I was in the locker room right after a swim class let out and a swarm of older woman--70's and 80's--flooded the locker room. They were talking about shopping online and one woman held their rapt attention as she informed them how to score some quality knee-high stockings.
"You go to this site and you can buy 5, 20, 50--however many you want--and the price is nothing! It's maybe sixty-four cents a pair! I bought 100 and just had them delivered to my house."
"And you used the internet-thingee to buy them?" asked one woman.
"Yes, yes. All on the computer. My son showed me how. And the knee-highs were sixty-four cents!"
Her enthusiasm was contagious. Even I started to get a little excited about the knee-high deals to be found online.
Once this new cat book is complete, I may just have to write a book of locker room stories. Not the racy stuff, but the everyday conversations overheard in the gym. Good stuff.