Unintentionally Overhearing Weird Conversations

Today at the university gym I was walking to the locker room and I suddenly started to hear the conversation of two guys walking behind me. The first guy was talking in a normal, serious tone, and I just heard the last part of his sentence:

"…yeah, so I found this one girl that I think wants the room, but like she’s Irish and - "

Suddenly, his friend (who’s clearly a bro) emphatically interjects:

“Dude! you do NOT rent to Irish people! That’s like, the first rule of sub-letting!”

To which the potential sub-letter replied, his voice going up an octave as if out of indignation that his bro friend would assume him so unaware of such basic subletting rules:

“I KNOW! but…”

After the “but” I was in the locker room and could hear no more. But my mind was full of questions: Why was the bro so against the idea of sub-letting to Irish? Why did the first guy agree with that sentiment like it was the most obvious thing in the world?

My first thought was that the second friend had a bad experience in the past sub-letting to an Irish person and became prejudiced. I quickly dismissed that idea. It would take more than one or two bad apples to create that kind of reaction, and I doubted he was old enough to have been able to have that experience.

My second thought was more charitable. I thought that maybe these guys were history majors, and that they were mindful of how absentee landlords in Ireland once restricted huge numbers of peasants to tiny sublet plots of land, evicting them in times of hardship and just generally keeping Ireland in a state of subjugation. Maybe they thought offering a sublet to an Irish person would be like reopening the old scars of a national trauma. This explained why the first friend felt he had to justify his thinking, and I imagined him completing his last sentence by saying: “I KNOW! but she told me she wanted to prove that the Irish could participate beneficially in all forms of tenancy!”

Unfortunately, I was soon reminded by a friend that there was actually a boring reason for the bro’s warning: the Santa Barbara “Irish Invasion,” which has become something of a tradition. Every summer a bunch of Irish students come here and sublet rooms. They have a very rowdy reputation that I had forgotten.

So, mystery solved, no cultural empathy, and officially mundane and pointless. However, I still can’t get over how weird that exchange sounded out of context, and how intensely emotional these guys got for a moment over the “rule” against sub-letting to Irish. The absurdity of it made me laugh a lot :slight_smile:

Who else has recently overheard part of a weird, awkward, or unsettling conversation?

Wow, my first thought was that a space-time wormhole had opened up in your gym, and you were hearing a conversation from, maybe, 1850s New York.

Your actual explanation does still raise a question, however. Why do Irish (I guess we really mean Irish-American) students in particular, descend en masse upon Santa Barbara in particular every summer?

No, the articles are about Irish students from Ireland.

obligatory “if it weren’t for my horse…” reference.

I’ve lived in Santa Barbara for almost 21 years and this I’d the first I’ve heard of this. Interesting.

So I was sitting in a bathroom stall when a teenage girl came in, sat down in the stall next to mine, started pissing and in mid-stream started up a very loud cell phone conversation in which she described, in loving detail:

  1. the psychological problems of a tenant she lived with
  2. being interrupted on the toilet by the tenant ‘‘while I was taking a shit’’ asking when her baby was due
  3. jumping off the toilet ‘’…and I didn’t even have time to wipe my ass’’ and giving the tenant a royal beatdown
  4. ‘‘I just started slamming her head again and again… I fucked her up’’

Apparently there were witnesses and the woman denied being attacked by a pregnant lady, so I imagine this girl was probably greatly exaggerating the force she used.

But damn. Awkward, inappropriate, and troubling, all the same.

In that case it is downright weird that they should regularly descend, en masse, on Santa Barbara, in particular, every summer. Why the hell would they travel all that way?

I try to provoke these moments regularly in others in my own conversations, with some success. (Other times I don’t have to try and it just happens.)

Where does it say that it’s Santa Barbara in particular? They probably go all over the place but a smallish California town with a university known for being a party school would be a choice location.

From what the OP described, it seems like it is a very logical response to the particulars of renting in Santa Barbara. If for whatever reason, students from Ireland descent on SB every year, I can see why one might not be particularly inclined to rent to Irish. The obvious being that they are going to spend their holiday getting wasted, possibly damaging the property and then returning to a foreign country where the landlord had little recourse for collecting compensation.

That and they smell like potatoes and Guiness.:wink:

I was once on a 12-hour overnight Greyhound bus ride from Billings, MT to Spokane, WA, and I sat behind a truck driver and a guy on his way to rehab. They had the most fascinating 10-hour conversation I have ever heard, and I honestly felt privileged to be able to hear it. It was not a conversation that they would ever had had with me, a milkfed, 20-something middle-class girl.

They talked about everything under the sun, including whether it would be better to be eaten by a polar bear or a pack of wolves; how to properly run someone off the road with a truck (buses are apparently too shoddily constructed nowadays to handle such a task); the dead zone outside of Libby, MT due to cyanide leaching; the logisitics of having sex in a moving vehicle; what it’s like taking Nyquil when you’re already on meth; and the highlight – which I still repeat to myself every so often – was this exchange:

Meth addict: I ain’t afraid to die.
Salty trucker: Dying’s easy, man, living’s the hard part.

The addict got off the bus at Coeur d’Alene, ID, and the trucker fell silent after that. Godspeed, you two.

You know how most gas stations have a PA system so the clerk can address customers at the pump from inside? There’s also usually a microphone at the pumps. One busy afternoon 2 college girls stopped to get gas. One came in, asked for $40 on the pump, and went back out. I waited on other customers before noticing they were outside at the pumps having a very personal discussion trying to figure out why their “assholes” were so “itchy”. A conversation which everyone (including an older women with 2 small kids) at the register could hear because of the microphone (there wasn’t anybody at the other pumps). So I casually went over the PA and said “Ladies we can hear everything you’re saying in here, please keep it clean.” :smiley: Boy, were they mortified. The one pumping gas stopped, put the hose back, and they got back in the car and spend off with $20 left on the pump (which was never claimed).

The canceled TV series Action had probably the classic plot line of this. The lead character, movie magnate Peter Dragon, while having a suit tailored makes a remark that is misheard and misquoted a few times till everyone in Hollywood thinks he had to visit the ER to have a hallucinogenic frog removed from his rectum.

His slow growing perception of the problem is hysterical.
(good show, too bad it was canceled, and ripped off by Entourage)

This looks like a good place for this link - Overheard Everywhere. :smiley:

The toilet one is funny and horrible.

This probably doesn’t count as unintentionally overheard, but I once got a wrong-number phone call in the middle of the night. I was in a weird dream state as I picked up the phone, and also in a state of adrenaline panic, since a phone call in the middle of the night is usually some awful news. The stranger on the phone was tearfully begging me to bail him out of jail. Since I was only technically awake, I just held the phone helplessly to my ear, unable to figure out what to do. No words came out of my mouth. He continued, “Honey, I know you’re mad! I’m so sorry! Please say something! Please, I need your help…” I completely could not grasp what was going on, and I hung up and unplugged the phone from the wall.

The next day I realized it hadn’t been a dream (I saw the unplugged phone) and I felt really bad. Did that guy sit in jail all night because I couldn’t just say, “You’ve got the wrong number”? Did he sit in jail thinking up revenge on his girlfriend? When he got out, did he confront her in some violent way? But I just wasn’t able to go from being sound asleep to conversing with a random criminal. I’m sorry! If you were that guy, I’m sorry!!

Well, if you don’t live in Isla Vista, then its easy not to notice them, which is why once I left that area I completely forgot about them. They come on a special visa and stay for a while, trying to find simple work, maybe taking a class, but usually just having a great time on the beach and drinking at parties. I’ve heard that most of them actually come from one university in Ireland, they choose Santa Barbara because of word of mouth.

I have a couple.

Zyada and I were in MOMA in New York, and passed three youngish guys in suits. One was saying to the others “All in all, I think he was much better off with the cocaine.” They all had a good laugh over it. I wish I’d heard the rest of the story.

Then one day at work two little old ladies passed by. Very old ladies. One said to the other “You’re not far from the graveyard, are you?” (I did a little take.) “Oh.yes,” said the other, “The petals from the wreaths blow into my yard whenever the wind is in that direction.”

I was eating lunch in the student union. A guy came and sat down next to me, pulled out his cell phone, and had the following conversation at the top of his lungs:


Within earshot of about 25 people, he then proceeded to loudly reel off his account number, security questions, and SSN. Then,


Gee, I don’t know! Could you repeat that, I didn’t get the last two digits of your bank account number!

Well, many years ago (in the days of analog cell phones), I had a friend who had a mobile scanner. We would rive around, and listen to random conversations, that the scanner picked up.
One that held my interest was two guys talking to eachother, in some kind of a code. It went like this (sorta):
(A): “it looks like we need some wine…about 50 bottles”
(B): “yeah, and I expect Art will have what we need”
(A): “be sure to have the shop ready”
(B) : “I think boys need a trip to that place”
Of course, I have no idea what this was all about-it sounded so strange. Maybe a couple of mob guys?

They also like to hang out on State Street a bit. Not often at night, since I think getting fake IDs might be an issue, but in the afternoon, I’ve seen rather large groups of them going from store to store. I had no idea though that they were known for rowdiness and destruction.

I will say that nothing about the situation is particularly surprising. There is a bit of a tendency for newly “emancipated” young adults to go nuts. The study abroad program I went on in my junior year had a horrible reputation for broadly similar reasons.