What's Your Order?
A service plaza somewhere along I-80 in northern Ohio. Road weary travelers beeline between the filthy restrooms and the equally filthy counters of the McDonald's. A Starbucks coffee bar offers artificial respite, its dark brown faux leather seats contrast starkly against the grimy white of the rest of the facility. Standing in line at the Starbucks are three young nuns, wearing the traditional full habit. They look as out of place amid the Starbucks patrons as the Starbucks' patrons do amid the truckers throughout the service plaza. My mind races, filled with puns, and I laugh at the irony of a Starbucks employee -- or any McJob employee standing behind a counter, facing a nun -- asking "What's your order?"Carina's uncle Tim and I spent several minutes searching for puns to describe the nuns in line. We both agreed that "What's your order" was the best of the bunch.
I finally read Douglas Copeland's Generation X. My mom gave me the book years ago, and spoke to me often about the age group defined as Generation X. She often used me as an example of the group when speaking about generational differences in her trainings and presentations. As much as I resented the label, I had to grudgingly concede that mom was right: I was Generation X.
I found the book very engrossing. I also quite enjoyed all of the sidebar definitions. The focus on story telling was fascinating, and really resonated with me. So much of our interactions with one another involve telling stories, both real and fabricated. Getting to know a new friend involves sharing your stories with them, and listening as they share their stories with you. A healthy part of any long-term relationship is the continued ability to share stories with one another. Carina and I, after four years of marriage, haven't run out of stories to share with one another; and we each have sufficiently independent lives that I don't think we will run out any time soon.
A storyteller needs an audience, and I try hard to be a good listener to other people's stories (because I want them to listen to my stories). I like hearing people's stories because it gives me a glimpse into who they are; and I enjoy sharing my stories because it helps my audience learn a little more about me. I also enjoying picking up a new story that I can retell later ("I know a guy who..."). It's been my experience in the past, though, that a lot of times when people exchange stories they get into a kind of "one-upsmanship", where each story has to be slightly more interesting, or more ironic, or have a more outrageous ending. I get really tired of that, and oftentimes just shut down so as not to participate in that game. I'm interested in story telling, not "winning".
Last winter Carina and I went out with Marie, one of Carina's coworkers, and Marie's friend Bill. Carina and Marie get along famously, since they've gotten to know one another through the course of their jobs. I'd met Marie once before at a cookout we hosted. But neither Carina nor I had met Bill before. I was a little worried that the evening would be filled with uncomfortable pauses, and was originally looking forward to karaoke as an excuse to fill those silences. My worries were unfounded, though: Bill and I talked together almost all night long, occasionally including the women. We shared stories from our respective youths, things that happened to us while traveling, funny anecdotes. Bill was an interesting fellow, and the evening was a lot more fun than I expected it to be as we left the house.
I realized, at some point during that night, that there was no competition going on: we were both genuinely enjoying one another's stories, without any need to top the other. It was something of a unique experience for me, to meet a complete stranger and get along so well. In addition to a new friend, I took away from that night some new stories to tell: some of Bill's tales were hysterical, and deserve repetition to a wider audience!