It's happened to me twice now. I'm sitting at my kids' swimming lessons and people are talking about other people with shocking detail and in the most distasteful forms of gossip.
Our city is about 100,000 large...and when you add in the smaller surrounding towns it is bigger, but it still, in many ways, is a small town. I always keep that in the back of my mind when I am talking about other people in a public place...no matter where it is or how few people are in the vicinity.
The first time I experienced that uncomfortable feeling at the swimming lessons, it was two women that were there while their kids were having lessons. They were chatting about a mutual "friend" whom I happen to also be acquainted with. It was awkward for me to say the least. Lest you say I am eavesdropping on someone else's conversation, I assure you the space is limited for the parents to observe their children at this particular site. You really cannot NOT hear what others are talking about mostly because no one else is talking.
Last week I was sitting next to a dad who was on his cell phone the entire swimming lesson, talking to one of his guy friends and gossiping more than any woman I have ever heard. His conversation centered on a coworker who had recently had a baby with her boyfriend. The couple had recently split, for it sounded like, the second time. The way the guy talked it was the biggest soap opera ever. I don't remember the people's names, which he did use (though not last names) and I don't know anyone in that situation but, I thought how does he know that I don't know one or both of these people? Maybe that's my sister he's talking about! (I don't have a sister.)
It boggles my mind what people will talk about in public, in front of strangers.