Thursday, August 8, 2013

Gigs in the strangest places

I spent this past weekend at the National Storytelling Conference in Richmond, VA. It was a wonderful gathering of the tribe, a chance to reconnect with some of my favorite people, learn new things about my art and remind myself of why I do the work I do. I had planned for this post to be about the conference, but something happened on the way home that I need to share with you; conference stuff can come later in the week.

Since moving to Kansas City I have found myself on more airplanes than ever before. We're close enough to most places that flying doesn't take very long, far enough that flying is the only reasonable way to get many places. I flew to the conference, Kansas City to Atlanta to Richmond. Easy.

On my way home, my second flight from Atlanta to KC was delayed. The crew did a great job letting us know why it was delayed and when we might depart. I have worked in the service industry and know how many people complain, how few people praise, so I decided to thank the captain for being so clear. He was waiting for the plane, just like everyone else, passing time at the gate desk.

I thanked him and we got to chatting about travel, life and work. When I told him I'm a storyteller he was fascinated and asked all the questions I have come to expect. What do you do? Who are your audiences? How did you get into it? And then his face lit up.

"Would you like to tell a story on the plane?"

I froze. And then said, "Yes!"

Half an hour later we boarded. After apologizing for the delay, the captain told everyone that there was a professional storyteller on board and, if no one objected, she would tell a short story. Once the passengers gave their consent we took off.

I have to tell you, I was anxious. I've been telling stories for 20 years and rarely get that nervous anymore, but telling to a captive audience was nerve-wracking.

Halfway through the flight I went to the front of the place, was told how to use the intercom, the captain gave me a lovely introduction and I began. I told a simple version of There's Always Room for One More. It seemed appropriate for an audience sitting cheek-to-jowl on an airplane. As I told I could see people all the way down the airplane leaning into the aisle to see. I think, for the most part, they liked it. They applauded politely and smiled as I walked back to my seat.

I have to say, it felt like a Brother Blue moment. Blue would tell to anyone, anywhere at the drop of a hat. I could imagine him smiling at me the whole time.

I enjoyed the experience and am grateful for the opportunity. If nothing else, it gives a whole new meaning to in-flight entertainment!

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. You brave and sassy entertainer you! So happy as I read this. Who KNOWS how many will go home saying "GUESS WHAT????" or simply retell that wonderful make room for more (and quit complaining) tale. Bravo

  2. What a deligthful story! I know I would have liked being told a story on the plane!
    I really wanted to reintroduce myself to you at the conference, but kept getting interrupted as i made my way to you. (I met you at STF some years ago/) Till next time,

  3. How Cool! Smart Captain make a delay into a memorable flight and so very fun for you! Thanks for sharing.

  4. What lucky passengers! I would have loved to hear your version of that story.- I agree with Marni- I now have the urge to retell a version of that fun tale. It was great seeing you at NSN conference. Muriel

  5. You go girl! This is a great story and you have given new meaning and life to the old adage "folktales travel from place to place."


  6. Marvelous, Laura. And how good that you were going to your home town -- no doubt the home town of many others on the plane, who might even remember to hire you! Hope this extraordinary moment bears great fruit!

    I have long thought (but done nothing about) the usefulness of stories on airplanes. It may now be too late in the evolution of inflight (and electronic) entertainment, but I think that an organization -- NSN, say? -- could make some money and gain some notoriety by offering one or two story channels to airlines -- one for children, one for adults (largely comic, some adventure...). Wonder if this is a marketing opportunity between you and Delta, Laura!

  7. That was lovely, and an encouragement to me to step out of my comfort zone.

  8. Cindy Rivka MarshallAugust 9, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    great story selection in that situation, Laura. Planes are usually a place where people put up lots of boundaries, but you reached out. Well done!

  9. That's cool. And now your post is a story in a story. Elaine

  10. fantastic story! What a captain and what a great honor you do us all. thanks!!!

  11. Hmmm...maybe that's why the captain on my flight to KC didn't show up. He heard that I was going to be on board, and knew that I wouldn't hold a candle to your performance! Good for you, Laura!


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