Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Politician next door... Tuesday Tirade

For some reason, I've noticed that the coffee shop I write in most often (despite the bad music... see previous Tuesday tirade) is a favorite one for local politicians. In the booth behind me, I've overheard impromptu school board meetings, city councilmen plotting revenge against their rivals, and even a state senator reassuring his wife that his position on the upcoming millage vote has nothing to do with HER. I've also noticed that a lot of campaign-runner type people do their business sitting in the booths around me, from calling supporters to remind them about an upcoming fundraiser, to figuring out tactics to get out the vote for their candidates.

I find it all equally fascinating and annoying.

I grew up in New York City, where the people that ran the city and state were as far removed from me as the typical American is removed from the staff of the White House. Meaning that before I moved to New Orleans, it simply wasn't in my experience to even be in the same building as these elected officials, much less in the next booth from them at a coffee shop. City council members, for instance (or even borough Council members) were never people that were accessable, or even all that relevant to my life. Sure, they made the decisions about things like whether... well, now that I'm writing, I don't even know how to finish that sentence, and that's the point. In NYC, the government became this big, faceless thing that operated behind the scenes to make sure that the trains ran on time, cause god help them if they didn't. Politicians never had a direct effect on my life in the slightest.

But now, here I sit in a coffee shop in a suburb of New Orleans, and I am surrounded by political goings on. I know that the dude in the next booth who is ranting about slashing the school budget to spite a political opponent is talking about slashing the budget to MY kid's school. I know that as annoying as I find the woman calling out supporters for the state senator, that senator is trying to pass a bill to protect the rights of LGBT couples. I know that the Mayor of our city is an excellent tipper, and I really want to be blissfully ignorant to all these facts like I used to be in New York.

"So, then don't listen, Rob!" I can hear you saying, and that simply isn't an option for me. Eavesdropping may be rude, but it is also an essential part of what allows me as a writer to write convincing dialogue. While the content of the conversation between the state senator and his wife will remain between them, my facebook friends, and anyone else that was within earshot, their loving tone and his sincerity to his wife will undoubtedly make it into one of my novels someday. I also have learned a lot about how my local government works as I take the time to Google some key words and phrases from their conversations.

Fact is, it would be awesome if it didn't distract me so. Maybe I really need to train myself to write with headphones on.  

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