An exercise using observation

The sun shines brightly but the air is cold here on the terrace where all the tables are full.  The wait staff bustles quietly and the low hum of traffic in the background drowns out the voices from the other patrons. The lukewarm coffee cup no longer warms my hands yet I continue to hold it near my face to smell the woodsy scent of Caribou coffee mixed with brandy. The newspaper did not have one story I submitted to the Herald. As I gaze around the terrace, I wish I could witness something the Herald found newsworthy like a horrific train crash, a serial murder, or a natural disaster.  The strident voice of an angry female catches my attention.

“I don’t understand why you are mad,” twisting her wedding ring round and round on her finger, “you totally blew the entire situation out of control. I would never, ever cheat you,” her voice increasing in decibels near the end of the sentence.

The couple is young, married but their rings do not have the tell-tell markings of a tan line, the gold, shiny and clean, reflects the rays of the sun. The young woman’s blonde hair falls over her face, shielding me from her facial expressions.  Her elbows tuck tightly against her body, her foot taps although no music plays.  The young man closes his lips into a thin line, his jaw pulses as he grits his teeth.  He pushes his full plate of food toward the middle of the table and his hands grip one another so tightly his knuckles turn white.

The waiter interrupts the couple, “Are you finished with your plates?” he asks. The couple turns their heads as one body, the scowls on their faces make the waiter stammer, “I’m sorry, I’ll come back in a bit “as he hurries away.

The deep baritone voice of the man nearly shouts, “You think,” quickly he adjusts his tone, lowering his voice. “You think, I think you cheated me? Really, that’s how you want to spin this?  For months we have planned, saved and dreamed of coming here.  We have poured over brochures, talked to hundreds of hotels, motels, beds-and-breakfast so we could get the most out of our funds and you… you think, I think you cheated me.” The dishes shake as he slams his fist down on the table. “I can’t believe you are so blind.” Shaking his head he looks around the bistro scarcely noticing the staff cleaning up.

With each word he spoke, the woman tensed as if physically struck with his hand.  Her tapping foot no longer tapped, but her leg shook, quickly, erratically, as if she had Parkinson’s disease.  Her hair swung out as she looked wildly around, she raised her hand to catch the waiter’s eye, never meeting the eyes of her husband. “Waiter, please, brink us our check,” her voice quivered and broke off into tears. Standing, she placed both hands on the table leaning over so far her hair dipped into the untouched food, her nose inches from her husband’s face, “I did not intentionally lose our money.  I want to go home as much as you do because paradise is an illusion.”

Raising up and leaning in, nose-to-nose, he says, “You are so stupid.” Rapidly she fires right back at him, “I know it and I have a certificate to prove it.”

Sitting back, he said, “What are you talking about?”

The venom still dripping from her voice, she replies, “My marriage certificate!”

At that moment, the couple locks eyes and both burst into laughter.  They sit there, quietly, holding hands as the waiter clears the table.  Their love shines brightly as their gold wedding bands without a shadow of their troubles visible to the casual passer.

As I sit there watching the couple, I decide to write a different article for the Herald, after all, natural disasters, serial murders and horrific catastrophic events  happen all around me if I take the time to look.

29 thoughts on “Certifiable

  1. This is people watching at it’s best. I always enjoy overhearing or eavesdropping in public places. It seems to me that there is a wealth of knowledge about the human condition around every busy corner. All one has to do to obtain information is just pay attention and observe. I really enjoy how the tone of the newlyweds’ words go from heated to loving by the end. It gives a good twist. The only thing I would change is the word “decimals” to “decibels”.

    A very enjoyable read!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this because I am a victim of listening in on couples when they fight. I laughed very hard at the end when the lady responded with “I know it and I have a certificate to prove it.” It must have felt very awkward for the waiter when he was trying to clean up the table. Hopefully the couple gave him a decent tip and an apology. The last paragraph in this is very true. So many things happen in this world around us but we are always playing on our phones or doing other activities, that we do not even realize what just happened.

    • Bridgette,

      Remember when reading from a critical analysis view point, it is not important whether you like the story or not. Support your thoughts and make suggestions as to how, why, what could have improved the writing. There is always room for improvement. 🙂

  3. I love it! The story ended exactly how I did not expect it to. It isn’t often that I catch people arguing in public, but there are those one off situations where I do and I am completely guilty of listening and watching what they are doing. I wasn’t sure if you caught it, but in the sentence where the couple asked for their check it said brink instead of bring. Other than that everything seemed perfect. I really enjoyed this story.

  4. I thought this story was hilarious. Whenever I’m in public and people have altercations, I try not to stare but I do find myself pushing my ear in their direction to hear what they are saying. When the wife says ” I know it and I have a certificate to prove it.” I never expected them to burst into laughter. It just shows that couples still can find humor in very heated arguments about things.

  5. I often wonder what conversations are happening around me at local restaurants. This story took me into a state of mind as if I was sitting beside this couple. You have a gift for writing imagery scenes. I felt like I was reading a book that took me into the life a a marriage on thin ice. Overall, this was an enjoyable read. I see couples arguing all of the time, but they try and hide the fact that they aren’t getting along, due to the judgement of society. Thanks for this picture of funny truth!

  6. I am not much of a reader but I really enjoyed reading this story. It was extremely descriptive. I felt as if I was there smelling the coffee and brandy. I felt as if I could hear the couple bickering back and forth. This story got my attention and kept it and I have a short attention span when it comes to reading anything. Again, this was a very enjoyable read!

  7. first off let me start by saying seeing the word BRANDY really got me excited about reading this paper, I really like how you help the reader paint a vivid picture of what’s going on. For example “Her elbows tuck tightly against her body, her foot taps although no music plays.” I could really picture a women doing that in my head because you used precise details. How they both laughed about the loss of the money shows how it was just a really big misunderstanding after all. I hope the reporters next story gets published

  8. Conversations like this go on all the time around us and we are all usually too busy on our phones and caught up in other things to pay attention. However sometimes I find myself listening in on other people’s conversations in public and sometimes it makes me laugh or feel some type of emotion towards them and what is going on. Your story was such an entertaining read. I really enjoyed it and how descriptive you were throughout the whole story.

  9. I enjoyed reading this story, because Im a person who loves to people watch as well and overhear their conversations, this story also had a great element of humor in it, It was a great read!

  10. I really enjoyed this story. It was very descriptive and caught my attention from the beginning. I am also guilty of listening to couples arguing in public. I felt like I was there with the couple.

  11. This story was so thrilling to me that I could not jump to the next line fast enough! A natural disaster doesn’t have to be a tornado or an earthquake. It can simply be a broken marriage, a sudden death, or something even deeper and more personal than that, and that is something I have never really thought about. We are always so consumed in ourselves that we never look around us to see what is going on. It’s human nature to worry solely about ourselves, but maybe if we evaluated our surroundings every once and a while, we would see what we thought was never even there. However, I am confused as to how the story ends. It would be helpful and more clear if the story had a more clear wording of what actually happened. I would like to understand how they ended up happy. This story could have had a much more dramatic ending, and that is what I was hoping for.

  12. People watching 101 for sure. It took me to a place where I sometimes go with Jennifer, “The English Muffin”. It’s a quaint little mom and pop place near the lake you should really try out sometime if you haven’t before. It’s a perfect place to eat, people watch and gather stories. I enjoy going there for the sights and sounds almost as much as I do for their delicious food.

  13. The story took an unexpected turn when the couple, appearently caught up in a dispute which threatened their matrimonial vows, began to laugh. I wonder if it was just a practical joke played on the reader, or if it really alludes to the futility of arguing with insults and hyperbole. I hope that couples can read more brochures and stick to the plan. If not, I hope they are able to laugh between one another with their wedding bands gleaming, as in the story.

  14. Excellent dialogue, captivates the reader’s imagination as we have all witnessed this before. Relationship drama consists of two people testing each others boundaries. I feel people purposely do this to add suspense to their lives sometimes, just to see if they still have emotion. If not, and there is absolutely zero tension, that means that the relationship is completely dead. Well put together!

  15. Honestly I liked the story. It shows something of all the little, dumb fights that people in relationships get into. Its humanizing to see how everything isnt always perfect. But it also shows how just as easily those dumb little fights can be forgotten, how really unimportant they are. You also get a good feeling for the emotions going through the couples heads. You feel the mans anger, the womans agitation, and the humor in the last lines through their physical descriptions.

  16. Very interesting read! It’s fun to observe and eavesdrop on couples in public. You don’t really know who they are and what their relationship is like.You can only make assumptions. I love how they were so furious with each other and then quickly fell back in love. I was not expecting that ending, I thought she would end up throwing her ring in his face!

  17. Ha! This story was a good read. I am separated from my husband of six years, whom I totally adore when he acts like a man should act. This reminds me so much of him. We would and even would today if he were here, get into a semi heated conversations like these and they end the same way. Whether my personal love story works out or not, a relationship like this 100% wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

  18. The story has so many details that made me imagine the scene, the restaurant the food and even the faces of the couple. I imagine sitting at the table next to them, is a short story but takes good care of all the details. Just made me wonder one thing: this couple will still be married? The economic problems started very early in their marriage and usually the economic problems in a marriage is what causes more separations of couples!! I loved the comment with the wife who defended herself when her husband called stupid, wife makes sarcastic remark about being stupid by having a marriage certificate to prove it!!

  19. The descriptive language was very affective and helped the reader picture the scene and the tenseness of the situation. The woman was obviously defensive with tapping her foot, twisting her ring, and tensing as if struck, but I liked the way she overcame her fear to confront her angry husband. Funny that the argument was over money as that is reported as being the number 1 friction in marriages. Great unexpected ending to the argument which took a lot of courage for a newwife! I like the revelation of the writer that there are newsworthy events in everyday life, but equating this with serial murders and horrific catastrophic events might be a little strong since this story had a happy ending. Wonder how much she “lost” and what happened to it.

  20. This story failed to capture my attention or stimulate my imagination. I understand the author was trying to point out the irony in looking for the big story when what affects each of us on a personal and private level can be just as catastrophic as the major news headline of the day. However, the opening paragraph seemed too long, the details given would have been better used if dispersed throughout the story. I feel the story started with a bang then just fizzled out in the end.

  21. This had me on the edge of my seat! I was wondering what the young couples outcome was going to be. I really liked how they ended up laughing at the end. What a great way to end this story.

  22. I found this story pretty funny because i enjoy listening to people’s conversations. You never know what they’re going to say and it just makes you wanna listen closer. Though i do wonder how much cash she lost because she did seem upset about it and very irritated when it kept coming back up into the conversation. Also i think it was interesting as a reader we start off with the couple fighting over if he’s cheating but by the end the story leaves us with a laugh when he says she’s stupid and she fires back that she has a certificate to prove it.

  23. I thought this was a perfect example of how significant events do happen around us all the time, yet only those who take time to observe them get to experience them. I especially liked all of the physical descriptions of the actions and reactions of each of the characters. It’s almost as if they tell us (the reader) more in-depth information about the characters than if the author just verbally described what they said. Also, i found it quite clever how the story ended with such a great sense of humor, which was surprising since no one would typically expect the story to end in that tone of voice.

  24. This story was wonderfully written. In the beginning my heart felt a little heavy as I wondered if you would stick to the cringing situation unfolding but in the end, there was a clever misdirection that filled me with satisfaction. It’s the kind of story that you can read over and over but still have the same satisfactory feeling at the end. I found this story especially interesting because being a quiet person, I often find my ears searching where ever I may be for the most interesting conversation.

  25. I really liked this story! It was interesting to try and figure out what the couple was arguing about. The suspense leading up to figuring out why they were arguing was so real. I think that this story illustrates the way newly married couples have to work. Even though they may argue and even in the most serious arguments they always have to find a way to bounce back! If not, then what is the point in marriage? There will be plenty of fights. I found it interesting that she though he though she cheated. I wonder how that thought came about! If I lost possibly several thousand dollars for a dream vacation, I do not think that I would ever get that off my mind. Her completely forgetting about it gives more evidence that they have a good relationship and can bounce back from that and even her calling their marriage stupid!

  26. What a great way the writer vividly paints a mental picture into our brains on the inside of this marriage. Yeah, they bicker and argue and get upset with each other, even so much as to yell at the other, but in the end they remember the bond they share and the reason they love each other even to what seem to be an intense basket of emotions that was happening at the restaurant table. There love is real and it’s what keeps them together.

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