Confessions of an Urban Eavesdropper

I have a confession to make.

I, BreezyK, am a serial eavesdropper.


While some might consider this behavior rude, sneaky, or generally unbecoming, I prefer to think of myself as suffering from a rare form of chronic, insatiable curiosity. Eavesdropping, as it happens, is the only known cure.

Fortunately for me, a big city like Toronto is an eavesdropper’s paradise. Every subway ride, every elevator journey, every meal at a shoebox-sized hipster restaurant is a new listening adventure. While most of what I overhear is banal – mundane recounts of traffic, gym sessions, and other hallmarks of everyday urban life-  every so often, I catch a moment of greatness. A bit of salacious gossip, a funny anecdote, or some downright bizarre sh*t that can  keep me going for days. (Or, let’s be honest- at least 20 minutes).

My eavesdropping habit is further magnified by the fact that I live in a high-rise condo building, filled with hundreds of other tenants from all walks of life. While it’s rare that I actually speak to any them, I spend a lot of time observing my neighbours in elevators, hallways and other communal areas; slowly piecing together my own running narratives about their respective lives.

Me, but more discreet.
Me, but more discreet.
  • There’s Mrs. Yang, the elderly Chinese lady who only ever wears three pairs of pajamas (all at once) and I’m convinced is actually a Russian Spy concealing weapons;
  • “Speedo Guy”, a portly, middle-aged Eastern European man who insists on blessing our building’s communal sauna with his commanding presence, spray-tan and perpetually hard-working piece of nylon;

…….and, of course

  • “Shortie Superman”- the muscled, 5’6, Dean-Cain looking dude from my condo gym who I’ve been waging a cold war with  for the past few months now. He never smiles, hogs the freestanding bench, and holds the  TV remote hostage, insisting on playing terrible, testosterone infused programs for the duration of my workout. (I mean, does he not KNOW 7pm is my Real Housewives of Atlanta hour??)
  • Needless to say, I’ve determined that he is a miserable, vengeful asshole who abstains from alcohol and eats only spinach.

Anyhow. While some of these characters I know I’ve got dead on (Speedo Guy for SURE loves European disco music), I worry I’ve rendered others too fanciful (I mean, maybe Mrs. Yang just likes layers?).

As you can see, some surreptitious eavesdropping is often necessary to fill in the gaps.

So, you can imagine my delight when recently, I hit the eavesdropping goldmine. It was around 9pm, and I had just returned  home from a work event. Exhausted and slightly woozy from the firm-sponsored chardonnay, I opened my balcony door to get some fresh air. I was putting together my compulsory two-advil and a tall glass of water nightcap when I heard the unmistakable sound of tortured, emotional voices coming from the balcony of the apartment down the hall.

I immediately rushed to the door to get a better listen:

I’m just, so confused said a frustrated male voice, “I thought you wanted to be in a relationship”

“I did! I mean, I thought I did” replied an apologetic  female voice. “I guess I’m just not ready.”

“But you said you were ready”, he responded “You said I was the one!”.

“I’m just trying to be real with you”, she replied “there are just so many things I want to accomplish”

“Like what?” he asked

“Like, I don’t know… travelling? And like, working on my music?”


“Oh, you mean your laptop DJ gig?” he countered


I stole a quick peek outside, and spotted a distressed-looking dude, holding an iphone at a distance.

This sh*t was going down on speakerphone??


…But something about the compact, glossy haired figure looked familiar, so I edged out a little further,  and confirmed my suspicions. The dumpee was none other than…………. Shortie Superman himself!!!

Just kidding this is a pug. He was actually a man.
(Ok so he wasn’t actually a pug)

I realized that in all of our passive-agressive gym battles, I’d never actually spoken to the guy. But now here I was -listening to one of his most intimate and painful conversations. And I felt kind of bad about it.

…. but bad enough to stop?


Plus, all those hours of Man vs. Food he made me endure? This dude had it coming.

As I listened to each argument and counterargument unfold (“But I took you to meet my parents!”/”I love you, I’m just not IN love with you”), I realized that every breakup sounds vaguely the same.

One party is all:


While the other’s like:


And in spite of myself, I started to feel a little bad for the guy. With every blow she delivered (“You’re gonna find someone great!/Let’s still be friends!”) he seemed less like the evil caricature I created, and more like a real-life human being.

Because let’s be honest- we’ve all been there. And that, my friends, is a deep dark place.


So maybe next time I see him, I’ll take it easy on the cut-eye and let him watch Swamp People unperturbed. Because God knows, dude could use a break.

Question of the Day: Are you an eavesdropper? Overheard anything good lately?

 P.S.  I changed my blog name and layout. Figured The Ol’ Camel was due for an upgrade. Hope you dig it!


23 thoughts on “Confessions of an Urban Eavesdropper

Add yours

  1. Nifty blog title change!

    Superman shortstuff still sounds like a berk if you ask me so I reckon you should continue waging your passive war of aggression with him.

    I tend to observe rather than eavesdrop to be honest. Last week, when I was on the London tube during rush hour, I ‘observed’ a middle aged woman’s bingo wings flapping in front of my face and then the next day I ‘observed’ the armpit of a burly builder.


    1. What, pray tell, is a “berk”? If it is at all a negative term.. Then I’m sure he is one. Sorry about the armpit, dude. There are some things you just can’t unsee.


  2. I soooo am the eavesdropper living in Barrie tho there’s not too much good stuff like in Toronto. Being in a College city I do see some crazy shit from time to time and then make up grand stories to go along with it in my head, when really it’s just a dumb student who partook too much.
    Glad your back and the blog looks fab 😉


    1. Thanks!!
      I also make up stories to fill in the gap.. Or, my favourite game- making up dialogue when I can’t hear what people are saying. Endless hours of entertainment!


  3. Definitely enjoy your blog. I definitely eavesdrop. Food courts can be a good source of interesting material. I also like rumours and don’t really care if they have any substance.


    1. Thanks Peter! Are you still writing yourself?
      Food courts are one of the best eavesdropping spots for sure. When I first moved to toronto it freaked me out how close people sat to one another while eating lunch- but now I’ve learned to appreciate it for that very reason!


      1. I am still writing. I enrolled in an online memoir writing course that has turned to be worthwhile. After Shaughnessy ripping apart my submission, I could go in one of two directions. I decided to keep going. Hope all is well. Keep your blogs coming. Nice little uplifting shot for the day.


  4. I’m so glad you’re alive.
    I’m just (just!) back from Antigonish. In the Halifax airport, I overheard a girl tell presumably her boyfriend that if he was three years older and her mom was 30 years younger, the two of them would be perfect together. The dude chuckled uncomfortably and said, “That’s kind of a weird thing to say.”


    1. Excellent catch. Also, how was Antigonish?? I’m on my way to Canada’s Ocean Playground this week to eat a ton of lobster and run 10km. But maybe not in that order.


      1. Antigonish was perfect; I didn’t run into anyone from high school. My eldest (Emily again) took a plunge at Mahoney’s Beach. It was brief, as I’m sure you can appreciate.


  5. Love the look. Love the post. And yes…I’m a terrible eavesdropper. I listen at doors, peek in windows, and read other people’s email (she was dumb enough not to delete it before she went on mat. leave)… I know I shouldn’t…but their lives are just so much more interesting than my own! 🙂


  6. I, too, am a serial eavesdropper. especially in restaurants, ssshhing people at my own table so I can get the whole story from the table next to us. Grew up in NYC and I even used to use the “old glass against the wall ” trick


  7. Oh man. Why would you have that conversation in person on speakerphone? Also, I never understood the concept of arguing with someone who wanted to break up with you. You can’t ARGUE someone into loving you.

    Also, it sounds like, from the samples of the argument you gave, he was probably far too absorbed in himself in this relationship. He was probably one of those self absorbed boyfriends who don’t take their girlfriends’ interests or ambitions seriously. So I think it’s okay to still dislike him.

    Shame. Someone who looks like Dean Cain should be super man, not super douche.


  8. I walked around the neighborhood last weekend, listening to people’s backyard conversations. I’m determined to make friends with the little old Italian lady whose guest exclaimed: “That smells amazing! It make me want to drop my pants and pray to heaven!”


  9. Oh the things ive heard. I too am a serial evesdropper, so much so I have had to decline meetings in the canteen at work. I focus on the conversations of people around me and not the ones i am actually part of.

    Its an affliction


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