Edward Pratt: Eavesdropping leads to great connection

It was one of my typical two-hour Saturday or Sunday stints at the Books-A-Million store. I usually sit in front of my laptop with notepads, my smartphone and good intentions of getting organized for the week ahead.

I usually plow through the 300 to 500 emails a week I get from people selling weekend getaways, great dinners at places I can’t afford and amazing solutions to incontinence.

I do get great editorial information from newspapers and magazines, along with stuff I need for the job I do.

So, it is important that I am good at separating the wheat from the chaff on that list.

Last Sunday afternoon, there were four young women, all seemingly college-age, at a table nearby. This usually does not bode well when there are that many young women together at a close table.

I don’t want to sound sexist here, but many of my experiences have been that there is a lot of laughter and conversation at similarly situated tables that unravels my concentration.

OK, I know a bookstore does not have the “shhh” prohibitions of a library, but some of those rules should still apply.

On this afternoon, I started to hear a little of the conversation, and it did grab my attention.

There was talk of urinary tract issues, infections of that area and what should be done to treat that and similar problems. A couple of the women immediately responded with solutions.

A woman at a table across from me perked up and looked toward what was becoming the group of interest.

For the next 10 minutes or so, I deleted emails with a purpose, including offers that would land me millions of dollars if I would provide all of my important personal information to perfect strangers. (Please don’t tell me that stuff is not a scam.)

Just as I got into the meat and potatoes of my work, one of the women began to quiz the other three about catheter usage and what happens if a patient experiences a fever and related issues. To be honest, they had me at “catheter.”

I think that word and the use of that instrument get a lot of attention. By now, I was really interested in this group. My guess was they were nursing students.

Convinced about their background and impressed with their conversation, I was then interested in where they were from. Obviously, because I work at Southern University, I wanted them to be from my school.

However, because they appeared to be the epitome of great young people and college students to boot, I was just happy to see young people doing something constructive after the horror I wrote about last week, which involved the vicious cycle of violence plaguing our community.

A few minutes later, I discovered I had left some crucial material in my car. I didn’t want to take my computer and other stuff with me. So I decided to ask the nursing students to watch my belongings until I returned.

I could have made the same request to the woman at the table across from me, but that would not have given me the chance to overcome my curiosity to see where the students were from.

I walked over and said, “I need to get something from my car, would you watch the stuff at my table until I get back? Oh, by the way, I was impressed with your conversation. What school are y’all from?”

In unison: “Southern University!!!”

I was so proud, and a smile came across my face. I told them who I was so that they didn’t think I was some creep.

When I returned, I offered to pay for anything they wanted at the coffee bar. I mean, How much could coffee and chocolate run me? A couple of them took me up on my offer.

After nearly two hours in the place, I started heading out the door. The students were still going at it. I stopped to tell them how proud I was of them and I enjoyed eavesdropping on their conversation … except for the catheter part.

Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is epratt1972@yahoo.com.