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Notebooks. Swedes. Spying. That sorta thing.

by Alan Benson

I've recently begun carrying a notebook and pen around with me wherever I go. Now before you start rolling your eyes about how you-know-who has pretensions of being a serious writer, let it show in the record that I mainly use the notebook to prop up my misfiring memory cells. So let's just keep our opinions to ourselves and go back to the business at hand: reading my drivel.

Thank you. Now, where was I? Ah yes. Memory. Right.

See!? My memory is shot. Kaput. That's why I've had to begin lugging this damn notepad with me wherever I go. Normally, I just use it for work stuff, but every now and then a sketch idea will hit me when I'm away from my preferred sketch filing system and I'll enter it in.

But to be honest, the main reason I pull out the notebook is to copy down what people sitting near me are saying. I've always loved spying on other people. I don't know why I do it — is it the illicit nature of the act, is it the prospect of possibly finding out something interesting, is it because I have traditionally befriended relatively dull and placid people?

Dunno. All I can say is that I don't think it's the third. Sure, I have some dull friends. I mean, really dull friends. But I find myself spying just as often when I'm alone as when I'm sitting with them, struggling not to yawn while half-listening to their endless prattle about vacations, exotic diseases, Hollywood gossip, and how they can "make [me] a star."

The reason I bring this up is that I just returned from IKEA with a notebook full of other people's ramblings. Some made me laugh reading them, so I thought I'd share the best with you.

Yeah, it's invasion of privacy, so feel free to screw me over and publish this tripe on your own page. I won't even sue...too much.

The Scene:
IKEA's "restaurant," a cul-de-sac tucked behind the monstrously overpriced office chairs. Since it's off the side of the main drag, it acts as an eddy, attracting human detritus (IKEA "co-workers" [underpaid drones] and the slack-jawed suburbanite consumers who make up the bulk of the store's clientele). To be fair, it does serve the best darn Swedish meatballs in that store, but it's not the kind of place you'd want to eat unless you had no other choice or were starving.

The Situation:
I was starving and so,therefore, had no other choice. So I squared my shoulders and trudged forward into the cloud of meatball-stink.

The Participants:
After I got my "food", I realized that the only open table was next to one currently playing host to a group of middle-aged women, a surly teenage girl, and two young kids who spent the whole time sticking fries into their mouths like fangs and yelling "I'm a vampire coming to eat you!" Perfect spying locale.

The Personal Notes:
  1. Steal that vampire bit. It's gold!

The Spying:
Woman #1 (as I am sitting down): "Thank God for restaurants."

Woman #2: "I can't believe all they had was gazpacho. No real soup?"

Woman #1: "Well, I am so glad that we had a chance to see this. I was afraid we'd have to go back home without coming here."

Teenage Girl (later in the meal): "I'm tired of friggin' furniture. I don't ever want to see furniture again."

Woman #3 (as they stood up to leave): "Bet you never thought that you'd be filled up on ten meatballs!"

One of the Kids (as they scampered by me): "Where are we going now? The offices?"

The Other Kid: "Offices! Offices! Offices! Offices!"

Those are my faves, the ones that make me laugh, the ones that help me forget all the pain and suffering in the world, the continuing injustice in America, the horrors of terrorism, the weird bubbling in my colon after eating those damn meatballs.


Head on back to Alan's pad, dig?

© copyright 2000 The Van Gogh-Goghs