Suspending Judgment

I recently went to a storytelling event in my local area. This was the type of event that had performers who shared their real-life experiences with an audience of perfect strangers. I realized how difficult this type of entertainment was for me. I was pulled more toward judging these entertainers choices and actions than I was listening to their stories and understanding how they dealt with their particular situations. I found out about this event through my sister-in-law. She and I have very different tastes when it comes to entertainment of any kind. We have read books that the other didn’t care for and watched movies that we didn’t find the same amount of interest or enjoyment in. With all of this going against a favorable outcome, I thought to give it a try anyway. My extended motivation was the extra credit Professor Maun offered toward our semester end grade for attending literature events outside of class.

Before the night of the event, I searched the internet to get more information about the hosting company. There were videos of previous events hosted by the same company that seemed interesting enough. So I decided that I would attend. I emailed Dr. Maun so that she could share the information with other classmates. I also talked it up to my husband and convinced him to attend with me. When we arrived, I immediately looked for the parking signs. There was no indicated parking that we could readily see. There was a sign posted for the venue’s regular parking however, when we tried to access that parking, there was no visible way to enter the lot. We finally took our chances parking on the street (where there were many other cars). We entered the building and I immediately saw an old friend of mine. She once owned a company that provided fitness classes to the Detroit Public Schools students and faculty at various locations. We hugged and introduced our dates to one another. I found out that she had been attending events hosted by this company for many years. She even knew where they got their humble beginnings. This made me even more excited for the show to begin. My husband’s cell phone rang and when he answered someone on the other end told him to turn to his right side and look over toward the theater’s entrance. It was his sister. We walked over to her and passed the time by engaging in some meaningless conversations. We found out that our niece was also on her way and she was bringing a couple of college friends with her. There was more talk, but I think we were all just trying to pass the time until the show began. I asked her if she had been around to any of the vendor tables and which one was worth visiting. She showed me a necklace that she purchased and also mentioned that one of the vendors was selling gourmet popcorn. Before the start of the show, my husband and I had a chance to visit some of the vendors. The popcorn vendor’s table was crowded. We made a purchase. Then walked over to the auditorium’s entrance.

His sister was siting just outside of the door. She mentioned earlier that her date bailed on her. Said she had a flat tire or something that was clearly not believable to my sister-in-law. So now she was left with an extra ticket. She asked that we save her a seat. So we went in and found seats to the far left of the stage.

The seating was situated in a semi-circular fashion. And although I can’t really call it stadium seating, there was a very direct view of the stage from anywhere you sat in the theater. The stage was small. More cozy than small. It really brought the audience close to the speaker. There were various video cameras positioned behind the farthest row of seats. There were at least two cameras in the very front rows. No doubt to get those close up shots of the speakers as well as great sound.

Before the performances began, the owner of the company, who was also this evenings emcee, entered the stage and said a few words. At this point I was really ready for the entertaining stories. She said that tonight’s performers were “Gonna really touch your soul.” She also suggested that we pull out tissues and get ready for some of life’s heavy lessons. We found out that the company was a 401(3)c and the emcee went into some interesting detail as to how and why she started the company. I turned my head toward my husband and noticed that he had his eyes fixed in the direction of the stage as if to pay very close attention to the speaker. I relaxed onto his shoulder and waited patiently for the announcements to end. When my husband began to tap his right heel lightly against the floor I knew that he was no longer in the theater with me. He was in the music studio writing the next line to the video he is currently working on. I interrupted his beat and nudged him to refocus. He put on his I am paying close attention gaze once again and I laughed inside.

When the first speaker was introduced, I lifted my head off his shoulder and sat up in my chair. He nuzzled as close to me as the chairs would allow and I knew this signaled that he was ready to listen. The story was about this young man’s life as a young adult and the mistake he made that launched him into a state of depression for many years. I tilted my head and slouched my back. I felt my husband’s heel rhythms returning.

WHAT! You actually believed this woman when she said she was on birth control??? Who does that?

All sorts of thoughts began to flood into my mind. I couldn’t focus on anything more because I was now hopelessly sitting in judgment of this gentleman whom I didn’t even know. By this time, both my husband’s heels were lightly tapping at the auditorium floor in alternate syncopation. I didn’t bother to stop him.

The next speaker was introduced after the emcee spoke a bit more about her own interruptions in life. This time it was a woman. Her story centered on her diagnosis of breast cancer and she mentioned how she found the lump months ago. When she got a little further into the story she told how the lump that was the size of a pebble had grown to about twice its original size before she would seek medical attention. I was hopelessly lost again. From that point, I couldn’t focus on her story much at all. I was once again amazed at the level of stupidity I was hearing. My husband’s heels were still tapping and all I could think was… at least something productive is coming out of this night.

During intermission, my sister-in-law asked me what I thought about the show so far. I wanted to be able to tell her how much I was enjoying it and how glad I was that she and I had found a common interest but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to expend the level of creativity it would take to make up such a tall tale. I didn’t want to have her continuously inviting me to the next show, then the next one. I wanted off this train and I wanted off now! I told her that the show was very heavy in content and that there needed to be something more light-hearted intermixed with all these gut-wrenching, soul-saddening, experiences. She mentioned that the entertainers from last month’s line up were less intense in their topics.

The remaining performances went on in this same fashion until the end of the event. I remained stuck on stupid and wanted nothing more than to get out of there as quickly as possible.

As we gathered together, outside the auditorium, his sister went to the ladies room. Since she was alone, he wanted to make sure she got to her car safely so we waited. We opened our popcorn.

My husband had caramel and I had cheddar cheese. I tossed some into my mouth and prepared for an ordinary chew. But this was no ordinary popcorn. No ordinary chew. I looked at my husband, raised my eyebrows, and slowed my chew to a “Matrix-type” bullet-time-motion. He looked at me, nodded in silent agreement. The popcorn’s melted cheddar flavor began to seize control of my taste buds. My chewing motion turned into a staccato munch. My husband sprinkled some of his caramel corn into my bag. He gave me a nod, I reached in the bag for the next handful. This time, caramel and cheddar mixed! The two flavors exploded satisfaction in every direction of my mouth. After I finished that mouthful, I turned to my husband and said, “I wish we would have opened these bags before the show.” He nodded in agreement with his mouth still full of savory caramel popcorn. By this time, his sister was already out of the ladies room. She was talking with a woman whom she had known since high school and they walked out together. My husband and I walked out, eating our popcorn. Nothing more was said about the storytellers–good, bad, or indifferent.

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