I Hear You

Submitted into Contest #119 in response to: Write a story that involves eavesdropping.... view prompt


Friendship Creative Nonfiction Adventure

Let’s start with a little background. My name is Jan and I am a fossil from a pre-technological era. My 32 plus year career was spent working as a manager in a large telecommunications company. While in Human Resources, I traveled in the five-state area. I also lived and worked with three different sister companies within the parent corporation. The majority of my career was spent in Operator Services which functioned with responsibilities as the name of the department implies. Some of you may not remember, once upon a time, you could dial “0” and get a real, live person to make a long-distance telephone calls for you. During this time, we still had telephone directories, also called telephone books. that were updated and distributed annually to everyone. If you couldn’t find a telephone book readily available or if you couldn’t find what you were looking for, this department also offered a service that when you dialed “411” you would again reach a live person called a Directory Assistance Operator or Information in earlier years. These operators were magic when it came to finding a residence or business you needed and provided you with a telephone number. Then, the beginning of the end approached. It was called the Internet. The electronic age wiped out thousands of jobs in our industry. Fortunately, some, like myself, were able to retire. I’m a fossil. My job in both areas involved training, ensuring that day-to-day procedures were followed so that the best possible customer service was provided. One of my main duties involved listening or monitoring calls that operators were handling at random times and on random days. Also, active listening around the room was used to assist operators that were having difficulty finding an unusual listing, or they might be having equipment trouble, or even handling an irate customer. This is how my super hearing developed. My friends with different jobs were amazed with that they called my Super Power!  

Some might call it eavesdropping, but believe me, I only had just partial control over this anomaly. For instance, while I was living in St. Louis, me and two of my coworkers/ best friends, Veronica and Martina, met after work at a restaurant that we frequented. It was set up with tables in well-spaced rows across the dining room. After placing our food order, we jumped into conversation about our week's events or lack thereof. Veronica was in the middle of telling us a story about a coworker that had reported out from work for several days now. She was afraid that the girl had come down with the flu which was going around. As she was near the end of this story, my attention was drawn to a table somewhere in front of us. The voices sounded were audible, but faint. I could hear a terribly angry and rude male speaking to a woman. She was apologizing and whimpering softly. She called him, Ryan. She asked him to let go because he was hurting her. Now I could hear her sobbing. This must have irritated him more because his coarse whisper grew louder. He said shut up Sandra, you make me sick begging and turning on the tears. It’s not going to work now and it never will. Just wait till I get you home! I brought you here didn’t I. I will never take you anywhere again. You’re pathetic! 

I was really tuned in now but I heard Martina say, “helloooo, earth to Jan, are you there?” 

“DID YOU HEAR WHAT HE SAID TO HER?” They obviously hadn’t heard and didn’t reply but both of them looked at me like I had grown three heads or something. I apologized to my friends and explained that I had zoned out listening to what was going on with Ryan and Sandra. I told them the story. Veronica could not believe that I could hear that much detail. Martina told her that she had witnessed me doing this before on a couple of occasions. I told them that I felt like I should do something, like, I don’t know, go over to them and tell Ryan that I had overheard their conversation and Sandra was leaving with me. Martina and Veronica agreed to be my back up. We three are all Texans and most of the time we’re fearless. Most of the time! Martina planned to go to the front desk and call the police if it came to that. Remember, this is before cell phones. Pay phones or phones in a business were used if you needed to make a phone call. I got up from our table and turned to approach Ryan. I was too late. They had already paid their bill and were almost out the door. I knew it was them because of their body language. He kept a firm grip on her elbow. I sat back down feeling defeated. I wasn’t brave enough to follow and angry, rather large man out to the parking lot in the dark. Martina grabbed my arm and said, “don’t even think about it. It’s way too dangerous.” We discussed calling the police but decided against it since I had just overheard a conversation and had nothing else to back up that he meant to do any harm to Sandra. We finished our meal and had completely caught up on current events for the evening.   

We paid our check and left for our separate homes. The Ryan and Sandra episode had worn me out. It took only about 20 minutes to drive home. I was tired and went straight to bed. 

I heard minor events of some kind every day. In a department store, I overheard a girl telling her mother that she made the swim team. At the bank, an elderly man was commenting to his wife that he was sending money to their grandson because they didn’t know what he wanted for his birthday. This was part of my everyday life. Most of my super hearing was listening to things that were unimportant to me or would not cause harm to anyone else. That soon changed. 

Veronica called me one afternoon. She had found us a new adventure. Since we each had temporary work assignments and would be living in St. Louis for six months to no more than three years, we took in as much of the local flair as possible. She explained that we could catch an Amtrac train that travels to an Oktoberfest held yearly in a small town about an hour and a half from St. Louis. Martina had already been relocated back to Texas. Carla, another friend was asked to join us. It is November and the trees and foliage with their gorgeous hues of orange, red, and gold could be seen all over Missouri. Oktoberfest was scheduled every weekend for the entire month of November. We reserved our tickets for the last weekend.  

The festival was held in the German community of Hermann. It offered a wide variety of activities; such as dining in an authentic German restaurant, a brewery tour and two winery tours, samples included. The train depot was at the edge of Hermann with only a short walk to any of the events. We were excited to begin our adventure. 

The last weekend of November finally arrived. Our trip was scheduled on Saturday. We were afraid that the train would be full since it was the next to last day of the festival but it was not. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it was pouring down rain. Our conductor told us that over half of the reservations had been cancelled because of the weather. We didn’t care. It was beautiful even with the rain, and were glad to get out of the city if only for a few hours. 

We arrived and stepped out into the rain. No umbrellas to be found. We had four hours before the return train trip was scheduled so we took our little tour map and went into a nearby rustic looking restaurant to plan our afternoon. We ordered hot chocolate to warm up a little bit. We planned to have dinner just before we returned home on the train. This place was so warm and cozy. We sat at a little table near a huge, blazing fireplace. The warm fire helped us dry out a bit too. Soon we had our course plotted on the map and we headed out. We stood under the awning of the restaurant trying to figure out where our trail started. Just as we spotted it. I noticed a convenience store only a few feet from where we were. I told the others to follow me. They looked a little confused but did as I asked.  

The convenience store was closing in less that 10 minutes. I told my friends to stay put and I’d be right back. I raced through the store aisles until I found exactly what I was looking for. I hurriedly took my purchase through checkout. When I reached my friends, they both asked what in the world I was going to do with trash bags. I said, “oh, just wait and see. You’re going to love me for this.” I tore open the box and pulled out 3 extra-large, black, trash bags. With a great deal of confidence, I lay them flat on the ground and pulled my little pocket knife/ fingernail file from my purse. I cut a slit on the both sides at the top of each bag for arm holes and a semi-circle in the middle, at the top for our head to fit through. I passed one to each of my friends. We shimmied into our faux raincoat and were thrilled with the look of our designer original rainwear. The cashier even commented what a clever idea this was. I proudly gave her a trash bag too. Carla used a scrap from one of the bags and made herself a headscarf and tied it around her head. I fashioned belts to tie around our waists. We were ready to go in less that 5 minutes. Everyone we met on the trail wanted to know where had we gotten our raincoats. I passed out trash bags until the box was empty. 

We proceeded to the path which we had circled on our map. Two places had closed early due to the rain. The storm had drastically cut the expected number of customers through this area. Still, we had plenty of places to visit, so we moved on. The brewery served us at least a ten little sample cups of German beer. I only took a sip of each because I’m not a huge beer fan. Veronica and I ate some of the offered crackers and cheese being served with the beer but Carla skipped on the offered snack.  We moved on to the winery which was only a short distance up a little hill. Once again, trays filled with cups containing I’m not sure how many different wines were passed out. Veronica and I did the same as before. We just took a sip or two of the wines as we nibbled on a snack of fruit and more cheese. Carla drained every cup. She was tipsy when we decided it was time to head back into town to eat some dinner and drink a lot of coffee. It was still a little over an hour before the train.  

The café we decided to try on was near the bridge that led straight to the rail depot. We could hear a little stream gurgling below the bridge. The café was old world charming. The quaint room was small but offered four booths set against the wall by the windows. We chose the booth closest to the front door. The room was almost full of diners. Everyone must be waiting for the train. We ordered our food and requested coffee, lots of coffee. Carla was feeling overly friendly and wanted to hug everyone. We laughed and were happy that she wasn’t sick.  

Carla left the table to go to the restroom. Veronica almost followed her but I assured her that I thought Carla would be all right. She agreed since we both had clear view of the restroom doors.  

She was walking slowly, on unsteady feet to the restroom. When she got to the last booth, she turned to talk to a large man sitting near the walkway. I heard him say, “well hello little lady!’  She smiled but walked on by and went in the restroom. The same man told the other two men with him, “she’s a little cutie, I want that little blonde.” I sat up straight in my seat and told Veronica what I had heard. Soon Carla was on her way back when the big guy quickly grabbed her around the waste and pulled her onto his lap.  

"What’s your name?” he said in what I’m sure he thought was his sexiest voice. 

I was standing up to go to Carla but she shook her head no, so I sat back down. She was very calm and collected. Answering him, she told him her name is Carla as she was loosening his fingers from her waist. Carla quickly stood up and told him jokingly, “Now, you need to behave yourself and let me go eat my dinner.” It was perfect. He released her and she patted his shoulder while walking back to our booth. I told her she had handled that bozo a lot better than I ever could have. She laughed and told us she knew he had a little too much to drink. 

We ate our dinner. All three of us had worked up an appetite from all the walking. I had just finished my coffee and was waiting for a refill when again, I tuned in on the big guy that liked Carla. 

I want that little blonde! We can have a lot of fun. He then proceeded to tell his two buddies what he had in mind. We’ll leave ahead of those bitches. They’re still eating so finish your beers. Joe, you stand on this side of the bridge and stop the tall one and brunette. Mack, you come with me. When Connie, he must have forgotten her name, comes over we’ll grab her and get her to the van. The other two thugs agreed with the big guy’s plan?  

I passed this information on the girls. We decided to beat them out the door.  They were still finishing their beer. We already had our check so we quickly pulled out money, piled it on the check and left the café. I was beginning to think they hadn’t noticed us but, I saw through the window that big guy had jumped to his feet and in the process, spilled beer all over himself and the table. He was cursing loud enough that everyone could hear, not just me. He frantically wiped beer from his leather vest and the front of his pants. I laughed as I told the girls, I think he may have lost interest but let’s run to the depot. 

We crossed the bridge and spotted our train in front of the depot. It was still about 20 minutes before we were scheduled to leave but we boarded the train anyway. Since the guy had mentioned a van, I felt we were safe since they would not be on the train. We took our seats. Veronica and I sat beside each other while Carla took a seat facing us. We had no sooner sat down when she reclined her seat a bit and fell to sleep instantly. Veronica and I laughed at her soft little snores and kept watch to see if the creepy guys approached the train. They did not. Veronica told me, “Supersonic hearing to the rescue!” This was one time I was extremely glad to have my super power.  

Monday morning at work, we shared the story of our adventure with our coworkers and we even modeled our designer rainwear. Everyone got a good laugh over that. 

November 12, 2021 05:34

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Lorna JC
09:21 Nov 19, 2021

Hi Janis, I'm Lorna, we were introduced in the critique circle. Nice to meet you! I liked your story, it was nice to read how the main character developed into some kind of gender violence superhero. One thing that I noticed was that at the beginning of the story 'Jan' introduces herself by talking about her work history, and I felt like it wasn't all necessary to understand how she discovered her superpower, perhaps a more concise description would get us into the meat of the story faster. The story about overhearing Ryan and Sandra lef...


Janis Van Meter
22:04 Nov 19, 2021

Hi Lorna, nice to meet you as well. I appreciate your positive critique. I totally agree that my introduction to Jan should have been considerably shorter. I am, as you can tell, very wordy and I’m working on that. Thank you for your time, Janis


Lorna JC
11:00 Nov 21, 2021

I'm looking forward to reading more!


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Boutat Driss
21:35 Nov 12, 2021

A nice tale. Well done!


Janis Van Meter
12:56 Nov 13, 2021

Thank you the nice comment.


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