Monday, June 27, 2016

Preconceived Misconceptions

I didn't want to go. The weather forecast called for severe thunderstorms, the venue was not a place I frequented, and my previous experience with story tellers had been total embarrassment on behalf of  wide-eyed, rambling raconteurs who substituted goofiness for story substance. However, I wanted to support my friend, Bobbie, who had been performing her stories with the Short Story Theater group for several months. From the writing group we both belong to, I knew her stories were well-written, and she's the sort of capable person one can trust to do a good job with whatever she sets her mind to.
So off I went to Miramar in Highwood on a cloudy but dry Thursday evening. Parking was the first hurdle. I left my car four blocks from the restaurant, hoping I would not get a ticket if I departed the minute Bobbie's presentation was finished. Second hurdle: at the restaurant I was shown to the back room where the stage had been set up, but no one was allowed in. I and another woman who, like me, didn't think 6:45 was too early to show up for a 7:00 event, were both told to go away; rehearsals were in progress. The other woman and I stood outside on the sidewalk chatting until her husband and friend showed up. They went in the restaurant to get a table while I stayed put, feeling about as welcome as a Zika-bearing mosquito. I seriously debated ditching the whole event.
Instead, I stood on the street corner, checking my phone like a teenager. Or whatever. Two messages: both from people in our writing group who said they, too, were coming to support Bobbie. All I had to do was wait. Back in the restaurant, the waiter who had led me to the back room noticed my re-entry.
"You can sit at the bar."
If there had been any seats available, that might have been okay, but the bar was packed.
Just then, a voice behind me said, "You can sit here. I'm on my own."
The voice belong to a pleasant-looking woman about my age, and the clincher for me was her British accent. Anyone who knows me knows I miss England every day, so I figure sitting with this stranger for a few minutes might give me an auditory mini-fix for the land I love.
She introduced herself as Ruth and explained that she adores Short Story Theater and had been to multiple shows. We shared new-friend information and soon thereafter, we made our way to the back room. I was startled to see the place had filled up with at least fifty people, yet we managed to secure seats at a table near the stage. I was also startled to see several people I knew and began introducing Ruth to my other acquaintances.
Long story short--the evening blossomed. The story tellers were first and foremost very capable writers who read their work with grace and style. Bobbie shone as one of the best. Our table, comprised of new friends and people I knew from various clubs, groups, and schools in town, was lively, friendly, and full of positive energy.
The big surprise for me was seeing so many people I knew who knew each other and had shared the experience of this venue multiple times. Why had I not been here before? Here was a whole network of interesting people to whom I was connected by only the most peripheral of strands, but there were many more strands available to me should I choose to pursue them.

Much as I love the time I spend spinning stories, perhaps I've been spending a little too much time with fictional people. The real ones can be fun, too.