Picks and Pans Review: Overheard at America's Lunch Counters

updated 08/28/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/28/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Susan Catherine

Overhearing other people's conversations is one of life's great cheap pleasures. Even if you hear just a tantalizing morsel—"I told him 10 years ago this couldn't last"; "Can you imagine finding that much money?"—you can extrapolate it into a juicy scenario, if only by recalling plot lines from Dynasty or Days of Our Lives.

Not many of us, though, are as lucky as Catherine, a syndicated cartoonist turned professional eavesdropper. Inspired by gems she picked up while waitressing at a Seattle coffee shop, she has spent much of the last five years traveling around the country, plopping herself down in doughnut shops and little restaurants and keeping an ear peeled for the provocative talker.

The samples in this little book suggest she went to the right places: "Don't be sorry, just go in to work tomorrow! That kind of thing sometimes happens with an industrial lawnmower." "You can't even walk! What kind of drugs are you on today? You should never have tried to coordinate your hair with your clothes." And this, apparently from a doctor or nurse: "I'm getting so negative! I won't smile at anybody at the hospital anymore unless I think they have a terminal disease."

Catherine is now living somewhere in Europe. Let's hope she goes out to eat a lot and understands the language. (St. Martin's, paper, $6.95)

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