Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The overheard phone conversation

The couple on the third floor were rather noisy. The whole building heard them and wondered if the young people knew they could be heard. This morning their maid left the door open as she ran after the garbage collector – on Mondays the regular collector, who collected the garbage from each flat daily, had his day off. The young man was on the phone with his mother, it seemed, and he appeared to be rather annoyed with her. A long and exasperated conversation floated down to the interested recipients downstairs each of who had a unique take on the mother-son exchange.

Since the man’s mother was known to be a widow and an artist, Mrs Rai of 2A had never really approved of her. She had never actually met the lady in question but Mrs Singha of the flat opposite, 2B, had, and said that she hadn’t known what to say to a woman who smoked like a chimney all evening. That, sniffed Mrs Rai, really said it all, didn’t it? Everybody knew what smoking did to a woman’s body and new studies were featured in the papers every day describing the effects in ghastly detail. So it was only to be expected that a woman like that would exasperate her son.

Mind you, the young couple’s maid would have stood witness to the less than respectful tone the young man frequently saw fit to adopt with his mother. She was sure, too, that the son and daughter-in-law sat around drinking with the mother when she came to visit them: the young daughter-in-law’s glasses always had her favourite shimmery lipsticks pasted on the rim while the mother-in-law’s, naturally, smelt strongly of the cigarette she delicately balanced between her fingers as she drank. Really, they were pleasant enough to work for, but it was not at all the kind of thing she would want her own mother or mother-in-law to know about!

The young man had been standing for nearly a quarter of an hour as he and his mother appeared to be discussing – arguing over? – a male of some kind. It could be a reference to a prospective suitor for a relative although Mrs Singha suspected it was more likely to be a boyfriend of the mother’s. Things had come to a fine pass when a woman discussed her private life with a grown up, married son!

Speculations ran rife as the man mentioned babies – was the suitor in question a divorcĂ©? Surely infant children should have stayed with the mother? Was the young man’s mother dating a younger man? Mrs Singha’s teenage daughter giggled and whispered that there was a new term for that these days, that such women were called cougars. She wasn’t sure how to pronounce the word though. Was it ‘cow-gaar’ or ‘coo-ger’?

The show came to an abrupt end as the young man's wife called him inside for something and the maid finally closed the door. The residents of 63/1/B/4, Lake Gardens, reluctantly went back to their morning duties with their curiosity unsatisfied. Later however, as the third floor maid finally left the building, Mrs Rai managed to snatch a moment to ask her what that had all been about. As it turned it, the young male in question was a prospective soulmate of neither the young man’s mother nor of any relative of theirs; what he was, was a dog the couple were considering adopting from the SPCA. And far from egging them on with something that was so patently unsafe, his mother had been urging them to adopt a pedigree puppy from a reputed breeder instead. The maid grimaced at the thought of a stray dog in the flat but admitted that since the third floor only had the one large flat with its comfortable terrace, perhaps a dog would be possible to tolerate after all.