as facing a two mile walk home while running (or walking) errands the other day. Decided that talking to a friend on the cell would make the distance shorter and the heat cooler (what?). Rang up a buddy.
And he started telling me about his Moby Dick struggle. With a Kia.
Really, the whole thing came down to him finding a Kia on an open stretch of road, coasting along in the left lane. For some reason, he found this actionable; he whipped around the other car, slowed a bit (i.e. brake check) and threw a jaunty bird.
As I recall the story (by that point, I was having second guesses on this call idea) he’d run up ahead but had to work through traffic (and by “work”, I believe it means reckless lane changes). But on went the story. The Kia just caught up, flashing its own lights and gesturing. But my friend lost him in traffic, but the Kia caught up again, much like the struggle between Ahab and Moby Dick.
And by that, I mean pointless and stupid.
I don’t now how it ended. I tried to distract him, tried to tell him that nobody ever learns from road-rage games. Finally I told him was home, my battery was low, I had to feed cats, my heart was stopping – whatever.
But that’s the thing. In the world of storytelling, there are good stories and bad stories.
Bad stories are always filled with anger at another human. Generally when the storyteller relates the enemy’s dialog, it’s usually done with a silly voice to belittle the straw man more. But there is never a question about the morality of the “hero”.
And really, these stories are a drag to listen to. I don’t care to listen to someone relate something that has all the realism of a Marvel movie. I don’t need heroes and villains a simplistic good-evil conflicts. In fact, truth be told, it was one of the reasons that later in life, I read or wrote at lunch, rather than going out with coworkers. Because, frankly, coworkers all had bad stories to relate, stories about other coworkers, their children, their spouses, nothing but vileness and anger.
Good stories, on the other hand, are refreshing. Perhaps they share an insight, or detail a place you’ve never been. Maybe they focus on a critical moment in a person’s life. A Good story isn’t happy by rule, not by a long shot. It might be terrible or sad or informative. It focuses on the storyteller and their experience. And generally, there is no good-bad or win-loose. It’s all about the moment, captured and shared with you.
So think about the story you are going to tell someone next time. Is it a good story or a bad story. If they squirm or check their watch, chances are it’s a bad story. Don’t waste your time, or theirs. Tell Good Stories.