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I’d love to say that I am a gifted communicator, talented story teller, and committed messenger of the news. But really, I’m just a blabbermouth. I can pass a story along faster than a fed-up babysitter at bedtime.

I’d have made a great Paul Revere if midnight wasn’t past my bedtime and I wasn’t so afraid of horses. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem would read:

Listen my children and Jean will dish
Of riding piggyback around 7-ish

Although I treasure a good story, I try to adhere to two blabbermouth rules:

1. Don’t spread secrets or bad news, unless it’s morally/legally justified or implied/requested (“Don’t tell anyone it’s my birthday on Friday because the last thing I want is an Oreo Cookie ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins, whose phone number is ...”).
2. When sharing a story, intensify drama by increasing pauses. “Did (pause) you (pause) hear? You (pause) are (pause) not (pause) going (pause) to ...” [this is as far as I’ve ever gotten before getting screamed at or hung up on]

Electronic magic may have hastened the pace in which a tale can be passed around, but it’s not nearly as fulfilling to the storyteller as face-to-face contact. I particularly love telling stories to women because they instantaneously apply appropriate enthusiastic and emotional reactions. I can always count on my friend Ann, for example, to give this response: “Are you serious?!” Men, for the most part, are too distracted and disinterested to offer decent feedback, which is why the stories I tell my husband are often followed by, “Did you hear what I said?”

I’m partial to self-deprecating stories based on my mental deficiencies and personal challenges. That way I’m never short on material and I’m free to share without worries of betrayal, lawsuit, or embarrassment. A few weeks ago I went to work wearing two different colored shoes: same style, different colors. When I showed my boss, she kindly said, “Oh, if you don’t say anything, nobody will notice.” I then proceeded to walk up to all my co-workers and pointed to my shoes -- a rare wordless story.

It was someone else, however, who starred in one of the most memorable narratives I ever shamelessly reported. The story unfolded when I was a CPA working in a Tyson’s Corner cubicle. For reasons that most likely involved an inflated ego, my manager, Barry, didn’t want the receptionist to take his messages when he stepped away from his desk. So whenever he went out, I had to drop what I was doing and answer his phone.

For years I had to make up the work I missed answering his phone on my own time. And that would have been fine if Barry wasn’t an ungrateful, self-absorbed chauvinist who amused himself by the belittling junior staff or, as he referred to the females, “gals.”

But one day the karma heavens opened and dropped this story in my lap. During Barry’s absence, I (pause) answered (pause) this (pause) call:

Me: “Barry Smith’s office, may I take a message?”
Woman: “Yes, this is Sarah from Divine Image Hair Studio. I’m calling to cancel Barry’s coloring.”
Sarah: “Hello?”
Me: “Uh, let me get a pen.”

[What I meant: “Let me get back in my chair.”]

Me: “So you’re calling to cancel Barry Smith’s hair coloring appointment?”
Sarah: “Yes.”
Me: “Barry. Smith. Hair. Coloring.”
Sarah: “Am I talking too fast?”

Before the phone settled back into the cradle, I shouted the news to my cube-mates and was running down the hall shouting, “Barry colors his hair! Barry colors his hair!” I wish someone offered to give me a piggyback ride, because I was breathless by the time I told the FedEx guy (he agreed that Sarah did a good job).

Besides Barry’s hair-raising (and rinsing) secret, I learned a few things that day: I’m a blabbermouth, I like getting back at bullies, and when I need my hair colored, I’m calling Sarah at Divine Image.

For more Odd Angles, go to the Loudoun Times website and search keyword “Odd Angles”


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