Can you speak up? I didn’t quite hear that.

My wonderful husband is notorious for listening to other conversations when we’re at dinner (not to mention eyeballing other people’s food). And after 23 years, I will freely admit I find myself doing the same from time to time. As much as that can annoy me at times, we have overheard some interesting breakfast conversations in New Orleans.

However, what perks my ears up most is when the conversation at the next table turns to design, construction, or architecture. How do I not listen? Except then I struggle to keep my mouth shut.

Most recently, while waiting for a take-out order, I couldn’t help but overhear: “I told her it had to be a 220 outlet, so she canceled the order. Why do people have to be so cheap?” And then came the sage advice from the helpful wag lunching with her: “It’s only $150 to install one. Call her back and tell her.”

The only thing I could think of was the old lady in the Esurance commercial unfriending her friend. “That’s not how that works! That’s not how any of this works!”

Because you can’t just “drop in” a 220 outlet without asking some important questions: Is there space in the electrical panel? Where is the panel in relation to the new outlet? Does the electrician have to run wire through the entire attic? Does the city require rigid conduit? All of that and more before you get around to the actual installation.

At those times, I stop and ask myself if I should say anything, like offering the aforementioned questions. Or will I get yelled at for eavesdropping and not minding my own business? How rude!

Especially challenging are people talking about their own renovation and wondering what to do. Can I casually slip them a card? Or does that make me the creepy architect who can’t mind his own business? Do you really want him working on your project?

No matter, because I’ll keep listening in. Just don’t be surprised one day if I lean over and recommend you ask a professional, even if it’s the nosy one sitting at the next table.

Main image courtesy of Tim Mossholder.