There are still people in San Francisco who talk. While there are few, the number is growing of those who will entertain a conversation with you in car, or even chat with you while standing in line. There are also friends who talk all the time.
But about what?
I’m a professional eavesdropper, so I can say with certainty that the majority of conversations I hear are about work. We are workaholics and we have to talk about it. It’s where we spend most of our time.
We go beyond work to the more general umbrella of tech. If you go to the Four Seasons during the day, you’ll find countless startups pitching investors, explaining why their idea is the “next big thing.” I’ve heard quite a bit about the Uber sexual harassment letter, the Google diversity letter, the Ellen Pao letter …
Everyone is writing open letters. It’s the next big thing.
My friend even created an app where you quote things that you overheard. We all want to know what other people are talking about, but what about when you don’t have something to talk about? I’ve been stuck with girls who have no similar interests or are super closed-off. That is a tough situation. Having nothing to talk about, I often proceed to talk about the weather, which is not a bad topic in San Francisco.
Then, there’s dating. Since the majority of people I run into are single, they all bitch about dating. First comes apping, then comes messaging, then comes the ghosting in the ghosting carriage. I frequently hear conversations about when to text, if he is dating anyone else and how online dating doesn’t work anymore. (It’s just gamified at this point.) If the person makes it offline, the more interesting stories are the dates themselves. I mean, I have even felt awkward on dates because I have to search for something to talk about.
Sometimes, understanding the cultural climate of San Francisco depends on where you are in The City. Pac Heights is all about babies. The Marina is all about workout classes and yoga. Hayes Valley is all about the food.
Yes, I’m generalizing, but it’s what I hear. Even more interesting to me are the phone-chatters on their way to and from wherever they’re going. My favorite game to play is, “Are they talking to themselves or on the phone?”
I guess all of this eavesdropping was inspired by my book club. All of us girls cook something, get together, drink wine and tear apart the book we just read. In the beginning, none of us knew what the other did for a living or how old we all were. We actually had something non-superficial to talk about, and I was truly grateful.
On the other side, not everyone is so nice. There is this term in Hebrew called “lashon hora” — mind my transliteration — for speaking badly about others. Sadly, this is the worst kind of topic I overhear. There are a lot of people out there in The City who are mad, sad, scared, insecure and jealous. It comes out in their speech and is toxic. I am not innocent of this, but I tend to stray away from it because it doesn’t feel good. So let’s not do it.
Regardless about what you talk about, thank you for communicating and not getting stuck in your own world.
With a background in journalism, Melissa Eisenberg has been working in the tech industry for eight years, currently leading the SF FashTech community.