Here are the 2 best eavesdropping strategies for learning about a town:
1. Spend time in churches.
2. Spend time in bars.
I mean, people have to talk.
Of course, I would also add to that:
- Crop Insurance Offices
- Cotton Gin Offices / Grain Elevator / Etc.
- And maybe the John Deere warehouse
For farmers can be a talkative bunch too.
I soon discovered that if a wayfaring stranger wishes to eavesdrop on a local population the places for him to slip in and hold his peace are bars and churches. But some New England towns don’t have bars, and church is only on Sunday. A good alternative is the roadside restaurant where men gather for breakfast before going to work or going hunting. To find these places inhabited, one must get up very early. And there is a drawback even to this. Early-rising men not only do not talk much to strangers, they barely talk to one another.
-John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley In Search Of America
Also published on Medium.