The Talkative Woman

There is no dearth of restaurants in Carlsbad (they claim it to be the golf capital of the world) where our office is located. There is Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Irish; all the usual fast food places like Mac, Jack in the box…….but no Indian food. On some days, when the mood suits it, I drop into the French Bakery and order a nice bowl of soup. They make some really good cream of Broccoli soup, something I discovered by chance, as I have always stayed well clear of that vegetable these years. This place always made it fresh and served it with thinly sliced French baguette and butter…

Carlsbad itself has nothing much to do with its namesake in Czech Republic. It became popular for similar reasons though, as Karlsbad CZ is a health spa. At the end of this note is a small bit of history for those interested.

So here I am at the French Bakery off Carlsbad village road, sitting and waiting for my soup to be delivered. It is a non descript place, but does remind you of France, and movies like Casablanca… with piped French music from the 60’s, the walls have French scenery…The people who frequent this place are not the ones who walk in on a whim, mostly regulars. The girl at the counter, a very pleasant Spanish girl, knew many of them by name and knew what they regularly ordered or ate. So it was indeed homely and I enjoy sitting there, watching people who walked by, mostly into the nearby liquor store or the Albertsons…A few came in dusty overalls to pick up home remodeling equipment from the hardware shop on the strip…most others were washed out characters, typical of those who frequent beach towns in California.

Today was different. The hotel was undergoing remodeling post New Year. There was a guy putting a new hardboard panel in place, step by step. I was enjoying his meticulous handiwork when the lady from the next table asked…

‘Not many offices around here is it not so?’ I was startled, normally people out here don’t talk to strangers, and this one just did. I said ‘yah, you are right…this is a beach town, very few offices’. Well, I guess she was just waiting for the opening. She continued on, about the fact that she had been living in San Diego County for all her life and had only seen San Francisco and LA other than San Diego. I was surprised and took a good long look at this character. Decent sort, looked neat and a bit on the plump side, tired eyes though, and she has no smile on her face. Quite well dressed, must be 30-35 I guessed.

She was remarking about how this place compared to some others in Diego and I had to tell her that I was pretty new in California. When I said I had just moved in from UK, she seemed amazed, but then her face sagged. She said, ‘look I have always wanted to go see places, but nobody in my family, I have so many relatives all over USA, invites me over, you know that?’

I was starting to wonder what direction this conversation was taking and when my soup was going to turn up. The tummy started rumbling and I had tons to do after getting back to office.

I said ‘travel is interesting’ you can go on your own to Las Vegas or some place, she said ‘you see I get depressed and others also told me to have a change and go some place, but I cant get the courage to board a train or a plane. Once I purchased a ticket to Spain, but then on the last day I cancelled because I could not find money for hotel in Spain and mainly because I did not have the courage to leave here’. Initially I was surprised, but then I figured it out, She was like so many Americans, caught up in their little world making hardly an effort to do something different. Eventually it becomes too late.

I was observing the panel fitter as well, but his job was nearly done and dusted so I had to turn my full focus to the talkative woman..

She went on, to talk about her sister Laura and her little son (forgot his name) and all their family problems. Obviously there was no husband in the picture. I did listen patiently, but in my mind, I was wondering what next. She was wondering how I venture about so far away from home and to strange lands, how I manage languages and things like that. She must have felt that I was some strange guy in comparison…like I define myself, a modern day Nomad…

The soup came, the conversation (more a monologue) continued. The broccoli tasted awesome. I noticed that the lady just had a coffee for lunch. She probably came to the place for some talking company, I assumed. Neither of us introduced ourselves or asked direct questions. Americans are strange, they have no problems about opening out there personal lives in public…A little strange to people like us, but it is so in the West. If you want to meet up with people, go to a bar in Europe, in the US it is any place bar, hotel, bus, plane. You meet, you talk, then you go your way ….As the world becomes modern, there is less and lesser time for deep friendships, all you have at the end of the day is many acquaintances, but very few good friends…

In between all this I remembered RK Narayanan’s ‘Talkative man’…This surely was one talkative woman, but I hoped she did feel happy having found somebody to talk to. I have to admit that I listened patiently during those 30-40 minutes. It was time for me to get back, so I excused myself and wished her the best. She did seem sad that I had to leave but thanked me for taking time & listening…The talkative woman here had plenty to say , but well, this listener had to leave…

I hope she finds courage to accept changes and see places. I hope she gets rid of her bouts of depression and I hope she finds happiness in life..

Talkative man – RKN said "I had planned ‘Talkative Man’ as a full-length novel, and grandly title it, 'Novel No. 14'. While it progressed satisfactorily enough, it would not grow beyond 116 typewritten sheets, where it just came to a halt, like a motor car run out of petrol. Talkative Man, the narrator, had nothing more to say."

Carlsbad owes much of its early renown to a sea captain, John A. Frazier, who came to the area in 1883 and settled on a government homestead. Frazier drilled two wells by his home and struck water at just over four hundred feet. Frazier soon decided his well water had remarkable curative powers over his chronic rheumatism. As a small village called Frazier's Station grew around the railroad depot for the California Southern Railroad (later Santa Fe), Frazier offered his water to railroad passengers traveling between Los Angeles and San Diego. A huge water barrel near the depot boasted a sign inviting travelers to "alight, drink and be happy. But as the "elegant, commodious" Carlsbad Hotel opened in late 1887, the real estate bubble was bursting. The special excursion trains brought by real estate agents to Carlsbad ended. Land prices slid throughout San Diego County. The Carlsbad Hotel continued to draw tourists and "health seekers," attracted by the fine beaches, easy railroad transportation, and, of course, the water. But in 1896, the hotel burned, some thought by arson. The community survived, well-served by its mild climate and magnificent setting. And the popularity of Carlsbad water continued for decades as bottled mineral water was shipped throughout the West. Today, the site of John Frazier's original well is preserved beneath Alt Karlsbad, a replica of a German Hanseatic house, on Carlsbad Boulevard


One More Reason said…
I find your view of the modern world as "More Acquaintances Less Friends" very true. At a time when the world is becoming a smaller place
Anonymous said…
Hi Mady,

Good read indeed. This reminds me of my days in Boston and how perplexed I was when I bumped into some American folks and found out that they have not seen anything beyond their place of residence. Many have not even moved say even 10 miles away from where they live. From that point, the Talkative Woman is probably lucky!!!.

Keep writing.

Pradeep said…
Very few people listen like you did, and that encourages people to talk. When people talk they get relieved; and for that it's important that there are people to listen.
Maddy said…
one more reason - thanks for dropping by, yes, the world is becoming smaller & meaner...

venka - yup, strange, normally when people get what they want and live in an open society, you expect them to open out, move around, be friendly..but then it sometimes goes the other way, people clam up, become secretive, worried that they will lose it!!

Pradip - yes you are right, and it is usually nice listening to most people, they contribute much to your life too, in small ways..

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