J is for Just a Minute I’m Listening


I am a consummate and unapologetic eavesdropper. I don’t seem to have that filter that drowns out the sounds of other people’s conversations. I have the opposite. I’m like one of those spy satellites or email spambots that pick up interesting words or phrases and hone in on them.

I get it from my mother. The two of us can go to lunch and sit in absolute silence completely transfixed by other people’s conversations.

mount-nelson-hotel(1)My father once took us to the Mount Nelson in Cape Town for afternoon tea. It is very colonial posh.

A man in formal tails plinks away on a grand piano while you delicately sip tea in fine bone china and sample exquisite scones with just the right amount of fresh strawberry jam and cream.

It is the place where fathers take errant daughters at university in the Mother City to try to talk some sense into them.

Our conversation took a backseat to the one in the neighbouring alcove.

Daughter: “Daddy. I have had an epiphany!”

Daddy: “Really?”

Daughter: “I know you’re upset that I haven’t been going to varsity, but Daddy! I’ve found my calling.”

Daddy: “And what might that be?”

Daughter: “I want to study astrology.”

Daddy: “Surely, you mean astronomy?”

Daughter: “No Daddy! Astrology. You know the stars at your birth and how they affect your life?”

About now, both my father and I tried and failed to smother our giggles with clotted cream.

There was a pregnant silence.

Daddy: “So you want to quit medical school?”

Daughter: “Yes! I mean the stars are so more, well more, um… spiritual.”

Daddy: “I think we had better wait to finish this conversation until your mother can join us.”

Poor girl. I often wonder what became of her.

My personal favourite of overheard dialogue has to be the UFO abductees in the lift at the shopping mall. The lifts are notoriously slow and the journey from car park to shopping level takes a good few minutes.

Two middle-aged ladies and a gentleman about my own age arrived at the elevator simultaneously and entered together. I had obviously missed the start of their chat, but where I came in it was absolutely riveting.

Woman A: “You know what it is like?”

Woman B: “I know. I know.”

Woman B was like the South African equivalent of Sybil Fawlty.

Woman A: “When the UFO is hovering above your house and everyone is sleeping?”

Woman B: “I know. I know.”

alienWoman A: “And you’re lying there wondering how can they sleep through all that noise? Can’t they hear the aliens?”

Woman B: “I know. I know.”

Woman A: “They always come for me. They’re very nice about it really. I can’t understand all the fear.”

Woman B: “I know. I know.”

Woman A: “I’ve travelled all over the universe, you know?”

Woman B: “I know. I know.”

Woman A: “I’ve even had babies all over the galaxy. Hundreds of them by now.”

Woman B: “I know. I know.”

By now, the gentleman and myself were taking turns to stare at the walls, the floor and the ceiling. We both missed our floor in order to stay close to hear the mother of half the universe’s babies.

All good things must come to an end and as the door opened the two ladies left still continuing their discussion on the inability of other alien races to reproduce.

The doors slid closed again and we rose to our intended floor of departure.

Unfortunately for us, as the doors closed we chanced a glance at each other and my companion said sagely, “Must have been that last anal probe.”

By the time we arrived one floor up we were bent double and weeping in hysteria.

The doors opened, the waiting crowd surged forward, took one look at us and judged us completely insane and decided to wait for the next one.

Not that I am a sceptic about life on other planets, not at all.

I just fail to see why they would choose a post menopausal housewife from suburban South Africa to try to and widen their gene pool.

Surely with all that Star Trek technology they could take Mensa candidates or Elle McPherson?

Alright, I’m just jealous. I’ve never seen an alien or a UFO.

My mother and I spent one terribly uncomfortable night on a mountain top in Northcliff with the UFO Watch Group. It was very cold and they had no sense of humour about what they were doing at all.

To top it off, apparently the next weekend they saw a UFO.

And we missed it.


And very seriously you must visit stopalienadbuctions.com. They have step-by-step instructions on how to create an anti-abduction helmet used successfully by thousands of abductees.

“Since trying Michael Menkin’s Helmet, I have not been bothered by alien mind control. Now my thoughts are my own. I have achieved meaningful work and am contributing to society.  My life is better than ever before. Thank you Michael for the work you are doing to save all humanity.”

Is this your dagger I see before me?

One thing they do not teach in advertising schools

Is how to gladly suffer fools

Of course advertising is my entire life

And I’ll happily cancel my plans for tonight

Don’t worry about my family holiday

I didn’t really want to go anyway

I’m deeply sorry for your pitiful life

But if you take away mine I’ll take yours with a knife

My ass is yours from 9 to 5

After then you take a nose dive

Down my list of high priorities

Right down there with other minorities

The next little rant I think stands true

No matter what type of job you do

There are those, with thanks here to Shakespeare’s vision,

Who can smile and smile and be a villain

Who while seeming friendly are on another track

Just waiting to put a dagger in your back

The sad thing is they lack the courage

To say their piece right to your face

They are quite lacking in social grace

So some today I shall venture down there

And ask this young lady her issues to air

I know we’re heading for a showdown

It might become a bit of a hoedown

But harking back to what I said yesterday

Karma’s a bitch when she’s out to get paid

Am a cynical, control-freak bitch?

I’d rather be Glinda the Good Witch

With sparkly red shiny shoes

With magic powers so I can’t lose

I’d wave my wand and make it so

Like a Star Trek captain off I’d go

Next week I’m off to the sun and the sea

For long sweet cocktails and time for me

My phone will be off on a permanent basis

I’m going to spend the week in stasis

If you’ve got a crisis call 911

Don’t call me, I’ll be on the beach having fun!

I’ve been stuck meetings all day long

If I don’t fall asleep I won’t take a step wrong

I’m tired of hearing the same old thing

I’ll copy and paste your next BIG thing

You want a cherry on the top

A Tangerine, pop pop pop?

I think I’ve reached a critical mass

And lost my cool in this morass

Of crazy briefs with timing lines

Based on a quantum physics guideline

Where all things exist at the exact same time

I’d better shut up if I’d got nothing to add

And smile and nod as if I’ve gone mad

Glad, sad and bad bad bad

It won’t change the world it’s only an ad

I can’t sell things that just aren’t there

I can sell ice to Eskimos, but not empty air

All the creative in the world just won’t cut it

If you don’t have the actual physical product

I’ll tell you what, let’s approach it like this

We’ll put in PowerPoint and then discuss it

Ad bloody nauseam. You write the agenda

I’ll put in the final addenda

So, what we are going to do for PR?

It turns out she hasn’t a clue thus far.

Don’t panic that we’re seeing the client tomorrow

I’m sure there’s some other strat we could borrow

To cover our asses and make her smile

So we can buy ourselves some time.

I love the woman I sit next to

She loud and proud and her name is Tsepho

Here’s her catch-phrase in case you care

“That’s some schizophrenic shit right there!”

It’s almost time to get on the road

If I meet Buddha I’ll let you know