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I have always been an eager surreptitious listener to strangers’ conversations, curious about what other people have to say, and their manner of communication with each other. But nowadays I do not have to strain— on the New York City subways, for example, people no longer have a sense of appropriateness, and they’re as public and loud with their private conversations as a Twitter feed. It’s like the town square. Here are a few snippets that I overheard—or rather that were broadcast—on the subway last week. Each could be a story starter.

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Man to another man: “Just because you look stupid doesn’t mean you have to act stupid.”

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Woman to another woman: “New Year’s with my parents will be sweet, it just won’t be any fun.”

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High school girl to another high school girl: “Every text, make it funny, so that he’ll take you serious; laugh at everything he says. He’ll like that. Just write “Ha-ha.”

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Man to woman: “I wonder if I just need to be less sugar-coated.”

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Woman to man: “Every time my boss gives a presentation, he looks at me. I want to tell him on a scale of one to ten, it’s a two.

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Woman to another woman: “What was so important that he didn’t text me at all for five hours?”