Sunday, January 02, 2005

Traveling tales

Home again, home again, jiggety jig.

I had a good time on part of my trip home, hanging out in O'Hare airport for about five hours in between legs of the trip. I always travel with a puppet, just in case. This time it was Prince, formerly known as Frog. He's a Folkmanis puppet with great legs and quite an attractive complexion, as well as a Connecticut accent and a wild laugh.

I noticed an exhausted family sitting together: three small boys and a mother on the floor, with the grandmother in the one available seat in the waiting area. I took a chance and approached, asking if maybe the boys would like a story. The youngest, maybe 3, opened his eyes wide at the sight of Prince, who suggested to me that I tell "The ghost with the one black eye." It worked. Then I told "Chickens!" Both are sure-fire funny scary stories with reassuring endings (listen to "The ghost" on my website, ). After that story and a little more Prince schtick, the mother noticed that their flight was being called, so they went to get in line, all three boys giggling. The mom thanked me, saying that this was just what they needed, as they'd been traveling for about 24 hours.

Later I mentioned to a bored but well-behaved five-year-old that I had a frog in my bag. Prince introduced himself and we were off again with puppet nonsense, songs and stories. This young gent was traveling with his grandmother, who joined in a little.

This undercover storytelling work has some rules. Always, always be respectful of the child and the accompanying adult. If they don't want to hear stories, back off. Make sure it's okay with the adult. Remember that sometimes people are too tired or wound up to take in stories.

Still, as the old tale says, at the right time and in the right place, stories can shorten the road.


Tim said...

Until reading your post, I'd never before connected stories and airports, and airplane journeys. Travellers have always swapped stories... wasn't that the whole frame of the Decameron... but airports-- of course. (Even Neil Gaiman missed this one. His travellers still meet in roadside taverns to swap tales). But airline trips.

Me? I join the rest of the crowd in putting up my personal space shield in the airport waiting areas. But once seated, I'm willing to drop my guard if the person sitting next to me wants to tell me about their travels.

PriscillaHowe said...

I don't always tell stories or even strike up a conversation when I travel. Then again, one of my sisters recently commented that we are becoming more and more like our grandmother as we get older. Granny would chat with people she didn't know at the drop of a hat.

On my trip back East, I noticed a Scandinavian-looking woman wearing giant orange fake dreadlocks (a weave), striped bellbottoms and what looked like clown shoes. She was heavily pierced. I wondered if she changed the color of her dreads, and if so, what the determining factor was--mood, outfit, etc. So in Boston, while waiting for luggage, I asked her. She seemed affronted that I had the gall to comment on her hair. I didn't ask in a provocative way, just wondered. I figured that somebody who wore such lovely outrageous attire WANTED to be asked. I suspect if I looked cooler, her response might have been different.

Or maybe I just violated her personal travel shield.

true thomas said...

I've storytold on the fly a quite a few times- cubscout meetings, doctors offices, airports, pep-boys, you name it. As a guy, they always give you the hairy eyeball...but if you get past that, it can be great fun for the kids....and my tag lines are
"Believe in the Power of Stories"
"The right story at the right time and place can change the world"

PriscillaHowe said...

I agree! I also find the doctor's waiting room a good place to tell stories. Everybody there always is so crabby, worried, or just plain bored. Might as well have a story.