Living Out Loud volume 5: Your personal folklore

My father is not a writer. I have watched him agonize over a single page document for hours until he has lost all perspective on it. The drafts folder within his email is overflowing with half-finished diatribes about politics, the price of lumber or whatever other things rile a man of his age. When he does manage to hit send on an email it reads as if he is convinced his internet service provider charges by the word. But my father is a storyteller. He has a story that relates to nearly every situation at hand and never hesitates to spread those stories to others. His father was a storyteller as well, illustrating his point with old bible stories, Aesop's fables or farm life folklore that had been told amongst men in the fields. It makes it difficult to have a short visit with either of them, but it does make them fascinating people.

If you're not a Star Trek fan, bear with me a moment for this next part. You know that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Picard ends up on a planet with some other random captain that doesn't speak English so they can't understand each other? It turns out that Picard eventually realizes that this other species' language is based completely on metaphor. The climactic moment is when Picard realizes that "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" is a fable about two men with completely different backgrounds and cultures uniting to fight a common foe. (side note: Wikipedia kicks ass!)

While our own Earth culture may not have a Tanagra, each of us has a subculture from our family, friends and shared history and that gives us a foundation as we navigate our way through new situations.

When we had our bathroom installed upstairs at the new house, my father was supervising. They had delivered the tub and were trying to wrestle it into the space but they had made the space too small. While the random construction workers were using brute force to fix this problem our plumber was trying to set pipes in the same area. My father realized that the construction workers were about to trash our roof line with a sledgehammer if they pushed any harder so he started yelling at them to stop and chewed out the foreman. The foreman was unphased by my father and they settled their differences but at that same time I got panicked phone call from our plumber telling me my father was out of control and he was worried about him being there.

I had to call my father and tell him to be more mellow around the plumber because he had spooked him. Daddy was still riled about the injustice of our incompetent contractors nearly destroying our ceiling so he started yelling about how he had no beef with the plumber so he shouldn't have cared and he was trying to prevent a crisis. I told my father, "The plumber is Perry on the school bus." Suddenly my father stopped in mid-rant. He said, "Ah, I get it. I'll tread lightly around the plumber tomorrow and be more sensitive to him."

Why the big change? Because when my brother was about 8 or so, he would get off the school bus and be a total wreck. My mother would ask him what was wrong and he would mumble something about the bus driver yelling. The other children on the bus were like wild animals and the bus driver would yell at them constantly during the whole trip home. My brother was doing nothing wrong and he knew the bus driver wasn't yelling at him, but just being around all that animosity and strife stressed him out. My brother was a sensitive soul, just like our plumber.

For this month's Living Out Loud, I want you to tell us a story that you may never have written down but is a part of your personal subculture. Tell us about your Tanagra or your Perry on the school bus. It doesn't have to be some big moral analogy that would save us if we were teleported to a foreign planet. Perhaps it's just a story that's been told around a table or fire pit so many times all you have to say is "remember such and such" and everyone nods their heads in understanding. Part of what builds a community is a shared set of experiences. So let's get to sharing!

The nitty gritty details are:

  • Tell us about one or more examples of your personal (family, friends, network) folklore. It can either be a written record of the legend itself and/or the story and your interpretation of it.
  • Once you have completed your entry and posted it, please email me the link at genie [at] inabottle [dot] org.
  • If you do not have a blog to host your story, you can email me the story directly and I will add it here as a guest post giving you credit.
  • The due date for entries is Sunday, June 7th (the first Sunday of the month) at 5pm Eastern. I'm still pleased with the Sunday deadline because we all procrastinate.
  • Once I have collected all the entries, I will post a wrap-up to list them all and announce a winner. The winner will receive some sort of prize to be determined but all participants will receive fame and glory and a link on our Living Out Loud blogroll.

Go forth and write good things. You can do it!