There Was That Time

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before . . .

I don’t have much occasion to offer this pro forma courtesy to listeners. I make off-the-cuff smart-aleck remarks but usually refrain from telling actual jokes. There’s something off with my timing or delivery that telegraphs the punchline or otherwise deadens the effect.

On the other hand, I do use old stories to illustrate conversational points.

There was that time my father taught me the hand signal to get the check in a restaurant without standing up and bellowing for it.

There was that time a border guard’s suspicion and my evident (but baseless) anxiety both ratcheted upwards, reinforcing each other in a negative positive-feedback loop.

There was that time I couldn’t understand a Spanish-speaking retail clerk in Guatemala who was asking for “one-fifty” instead of “one quetzal and fifty pesos.”

There was that time I couldn’t understand an English-fast-speaking fellow registering voters in Los Angeles.

You might be surprised at how useful these stories can be in day-to-day conversations. Well, maybe you wouldn’t be surprised, considering that they’ve crept into my blogging.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before . . .

Although I don’t extend that invitation to listeners and can’t really extend it to readers, I can offer a blanket apology for any repetition. And I do.

I’m sure I’ve told you this before, but . . .

In conversation, I find myself using this pre-emptive apology more and more, partly to, you know, apologize and partly to let frequent listeners know that *I* know *they’ve* likely heard this story before, at least once, and that I’m not losing it yet.

In any event, I really can’t help it. I’m not making any more old stories.


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10 Responses to There Was That Time

  1. Tom Watson says:

    One time a parishioner said to me: “I don’t know why you preachers keep from repeating good stories. A good story is always worth repeating – you gain from telling it and the listener gains from hearing it over again. Often the story has more meaning the second time around because you hear something you didn’t hear before.”

    In that sense, I guess, it’s like reading a book the second time. I recently re-read “The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah. I had forgotten some things from the first time I read it, and some parts took on a deeper meaning.

    So, well, go ahead and say, “Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but…”


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – I see what you’re saying about finding new depths of meaning in well-worn stories, or even “just” new angles. Good point.

  2. I agree with Tom. Besides, who says we remembered the story from the first time you told it. Do you think our memories are perfect. Tell all the stories you want!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – LOL. Another good point. And I think it was Maya Angelou who said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    • barbara says:

      Agree. I try not to tell the same story twice to the same person. I have found no one remembers it the first time, OR the second. My memory is, so far, really good and there was that time (only very recently) when I understood this was not the case of 99% of other people.

      • Isabel Gibson says:

        Barbara – 🙂 Maybe it’s because we often aren’t listening, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say next.

        • Dave Jobson says:

          After years and years teaching the same material the stories automatically fell from my lips when the appropriate spot in the material had been reached. Not preplanned; just appeared out of nowhere. Once I switched on the mental cassette I lost control.
          I hate to admit how much I repeat corny jokes , or use the same lines to joke with cashiers. Leone just turns away as if to say here he goes again.

          • Isabel Gibson says:

            Dave – Yes, I’ve been on the listening end of repetitive stories also and understand Leone’s reaction. But the new hearers don’t seem to mind . . .

  3. Thanks for the retweets in your sidebar. I think the Montreal Heart Institute’s experiment with colchicine is another important assay.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – It’s good to remember that there are a lot of smart people working this problem. Most days, I just have to let go. And stay out of the way by staying well.

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