Overheard Somewhere

The work I do takes me different places and involves listening to what people say. I’m a freelance interpreter and an avid listener. I like to listen to stories, interactions between men, women, children. Here is some of what I’ve heard recently. Draw your own conclusions.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After an afternoon of work at the courthouse, I went to one of my favorite places in the city- The Public Market, to have dinner. A delicious seafood meal, a little walk around the market, a cup of pour-over coffee and I’m ready for the road back home. Last stop, of course, the restroom. I’m in a stall and I hear the voice of a young boy and his mother.

– Come on, let’s go!
– Mom, somebody left the faucet open.
– We don’t take care of what other people leave. Come on, let’s go!
– But mom, we need to save water and energy for the environment. You know, the polar bears, the penguins…do you want all those guys to die?

I can’t remember the mother’s reply to her son’s concern, but they both walked out of the bathroom. I came out of the stall and the hot water was still running. I washed my hands, shut the faucet and left.

In the hall, a family was getting their coats on to leave the market. I recognized a young voice. I went up to them and said: “Are you the little boy who wants to protect the polar bears and the penguins? “ The boy looked at me and smiled: “Yes!” I replied: “Way to go! Your parents should be proud of you! And don’t worry, I shut off the faucet.” He looked relieved and said thank you. His mother stood there, looking puzzled. “We are proud of him, she said” as I waved goodbye and hurried to the exit.

A courthouse, somewhere in Wisconsin. People waiting to go into a courtroom for a juvenile case hearing- a mother, two social workers, a couple of teens in trouble. Everyone looks somber, except the social workers, who are having a conversation.

Social worker 1: I never read anything.
Social worker 2: Yes, me neither.
Social worker 1: I graduated in 2000, and I was just burned out from so much reading in school.
Social worker 2: Yeah, I know.
Social worker 1: I mean, I never read at all. I see a newspaper article and I just go “ugh”, I don’t want to read.
Social worker 2: Yep. I know how it goes.

The teens sit there waiting and listening. The mother wrings her hands and mumbles to herself in Spanish, unaware of the conversation. I just listen and think of my sister who reads to learn, to know her world, to explore new ways. She is a social worker and I’m proud of her.

Image courtesy of [piyato] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net