Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Today's Rave: Random Stories

My boss has a gift for storytelling, and he hones his craft by telling stories about himself, the same ones over and over and over again.  I am so lucky and happy to have this job that I don't mind one bit.  "You know, years ago," he'll begin.  His remarks are always a valuable lesson in business or human nature or how to be a mensch.  Often he'll preface them with something like "You know, years ago, when I first started this practice . . ." or "It was November of 1963  . . . " and off we go.

You know those word ladder puzzles where you change one letter at a time to turn one word into another word?  My boss plays a similar game with ideas, even though he doesn't realize it.    He begins with one thought, and little by little, with no real conscious understanding of what he is doing, ends up somewhere else.  And by "somewhere else," I mean "light years away from where he started."  

We are in a staff meeting to discuss the progress of various audits.  My boss looks at the agenda and notices that we will be discussing the Smith case.  The file number is 1812.   He inhales deeply and leans back in his chair.   He matches up the fingertips of each hand and brings them to his lips.  Looking at the ceiling and then off to the corner of the room, he is lost in thought.  I check my watch.

"1812, 1812.  Yes.  Isn’t that interesting.  That reminds me of history class my sophomore year in high school.   The War of 1812.   Do you like classical music?  You ever hear that piece?  I think it's Tchaikovsky.  Or is it Stravinsky?   No.  <long pause>  Stravinsky wrote 'The Firebird.'  I think that's a ballet.  I don't know anything about ballet.  <long pause>  I hate ballet. "

(I nod with understanding.  It's not for everyone.)

"Where was I?  

(I point to the client file.  Staff meeting.  Case status.)

"Right.  The War of 1812 Overture?  The one where the cannons go off.  What was up with that?  Anyway, I heard this piece once at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium.  Back in the day.  You know, years ago, they used to have classical music concerts.  God.  This would have been--wait, how old are you?"

(I dutifully tell him.  For the third time.  Today.)  

"Right.  Well, this would have been the year you were born. 1963.  I was in middle school.  And my school, Herbert Hoover Middle School, you know it?  This was back when it was still called 'Junior High.'  Stop me if I've told you this before."

(I would never.)

"In any event.  See what I did there?"

(So proud.   I taught him that.)

"We were kids in junior high--excuse me--middle school.  Whatever.   And we would come downtown for these events the Symphony would do, Concerts for Kids."

(I try to contribute to the narrative.)  "They still have those, my kids go all the time."

Undeterred, he continues.

"Years ago, God, I guess it would be . . . . <very long pause>  . . . .  I guess twenty years now.  Has it really been twenty years?  There was this promoter by the name of Bill Graham.  Big deal in the music industry, brought lots of bands to San Francisco, worked almost exclusively with the Grateful Dead.  You know that band?"

(Yes.  Vaguely familiar.)

"Yeah, I remember when I saw them at the Cow Palace.  What a great name for a concert venue, huh?  The Cow Palace?  Remind me to tell you the story behind that one some time."

(Mental note.)

"So this was in  . . .  <longest pause so far>  . . .  1970.  Forty years ago. More.”

He stops and smiles wistfully.  Helplessly.  "Long time ago, huh."

I smile too.  Encouragingly.  But I can't resist the impulse and I tap my watch with my pencil.  Ever so slightly.   Tick-tock.

He continues to smile.  And looks down at the files in front of him.
"Okay.  I guess we should get started."  

I have hurt his feelings.   I want to make it right.  Before I turn to my spreadsheet, amid the rustling of papers,  I ask him, “What should we do about lunch?”  He smiles and waves his hand airily.  “Let’s get some sandwiches and go over some stuff.”  I nod.  He’s appeased.  More stories at noon.


  1. I can see this in my head like a movie!! Love you Kloni!

  2. Ah, 1812, the year of...classical music.

  3. You are a very patient woman. Meetings like that make me want to claw my eyes out, get on the table and start screaming, "GET ON WITH IT!" I had a few college professors like that. I learned to start my questions with, "In 20 words or less, can you explain..." whatever the hell I didn't get. That was back when I was a drunken bitch though. Today I'd like to think I would sit there quietly and just IMAGINE rolling my eyes until death rescued me. lol

    1. :) I hope it's coming across that I absolutely adore this man and I wouldn't change a note about him or my job (maybe a teensy bit more money). I tap my watch only because that's one of the reasons he hired me. :)

  4. I have this mental picture of him in my mind. I can hear his voice and everything. Is it sort of gruffy? Did you ever say that? LOL

  5. Thank you so much for this today. It reminds me so much of one of the judges I once worked for, and it was stories like those that kept me working there for the longest time. (It surely wasn't for the money.) I've been melancholy about having left that job to stay at home with my kids oh-so-much lately. Maybe I just needed to hear a good 'ol story. Thank you for the smiles.

  6. I just got out of the hospital. There was a guy there who was talking just like your boss, except this guy didn't breath the whole time he was talking 100 miles an hour, whew thought my ears would burn off. I guess he was like a snake breathing with his ears. Anyhow, your boss sounds like a really nice guy : o). I enjoyed your rant,

  7. Thank you for the kind words about Today's Rave. I love my boss, I love the way his mind works. So much like mine. People say "tangential thinking" like it's a bad thing.

  8. I LOVE this--and not just because I am pretty sure that your boss is my long lost father...Does it make me vain if I say that I love this man because he reminds me of me? Yep--that WAS pretty vain. Maybe your boss should start a blog...;o)

  9. Aw, you made his stories sound so endearing! I have a coworker who cannot finish a sentence, so I feel like I never have a clue what the hell she is talking about. She'll do it several times within one rambling monologue. Not quite as cute, in my opinion.

  10. I'm so glad I added you!! I'll have to admit, you had me at Klonopin, but I did read on & your blog is fabulous!! Bless you for having the patience to continue to listen. I used to have that gift, I don't know where it went.

  11. This was beautiful to read. I always felt the same way about my grandfather's war stories. On the edge of my seat - waiting for it to end and then sad when it inevitably did. I have been a Facebook "fan" for a while, but, am so happy to have found the written word. Word. Can't wait to read more.

  12. I LOVE THE WAY YOU WRITE. Your sentence structure. Your timing. Your thought process. Your up's. Your down's. You are an absolutely amazing writer. Thank you for sharing, even when it isn't easy. It's like slipping on old shoes. The cadence is so familiar to what goes on in my head. Thank you again. That is all.

  13. This part:
    "1812, 1812. Yes. Isn’t that interesting... I don't know anything about ballet. I hate ballet. "
    HAD ME DYING. Holy heck, so funny!!

    And YES, tangential thinking... not only do I do this but the three girls with whom I hang the most also do this, so we will start on one topic and an hour later we are like, how did we get HERE? But it's always so much fun.

    Not to be confused with people who take you hostage conversationally (I think I got that hostage idea from something Anne LaMott wrote in Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith)with boring boring boring boringness, like my ex-husband... I'm talking about people who have ZERO clue that they have lost you and do not get that what they are saying is not remotely interesting. Do you see my eyes spinning around in circles and looking all glazed over? It's because you lost me about one year ago at the beginning of this conversation. But it is obvious that you have affection for your boss, totally, and I love this post. Even if it reminded me of my ex!

  14. I don't talk much, but when I do it's important dammit!! I freaking love your true life stories "had to add true life's true!!!" I tend to ramble on and on, sometimes I loose myself and can't remember what I was it bad that this happens and I'm only 30, lol.

  15. Unfortunately, this is how I am. I will start on the issues I'm having with my marriage & end up talking about several birth defects that include boys whose testicles are dissolved(?)/brought back(?) Into their bodies. True story actually as this just happened. Where was I? Yes. Oh yes, your boss & I have that in common. Not the testicles, to be sure.. see what I did there?

  16. I love your boss and want to smother him in hugs! You are so blessed to have a boss like that. He reminds me of my dearly departed father, who was 46 when I was born, so had a ton of great stories. I, too, have a horribly underpaying job, but it's my boss who has kept me here for almost 2 decades. He's not as old as yours or speak like yours, but he does have great stories and has taught me so much about life. I would love to hear more about your boss man!