Thursday, July 12, 2012


As I get older and more aware of the world around me (really; I look back on my 20s and I feel like I was completely oblivious!) I have started detecting patterns of behavior that drive me crazy. I'm sure they are different for everyone. But there is one tendency I see in aging people that I think we can all agree is unpleasant to everyone.

I speak of Rabbit-Trailing in Storytelling. You may have a different term for it, but the basic structure is this: a speaker is sharing a story or anecdote. From the beginning, they tack on details and information unnecessary for the story to be comprehended, but that in fact are extremely boring and often completely derail the primary point of the narration.

Primary point of tale: I go to visit my grandmother, and my car breaks down on the way back.
So I was going to visit my Grandmother in Batesville, and of course I had to pass through Memphis on my way; my cousin Rachel lives on the south side of the city in the suburb called... dang, what is that area called? I can never remember, it's Williamsburg or Williamsport or Williamson or something like that, I can never remember when I am telling someone about that part of Memphis, but anyway I stopped to see Rachel on my way; she's not been feeling well since she had a kidney taken out and has been unable to go back to work, and we had a nice lunch at a restaurant in the downtown area near the river, a seafood place called Martindale's or something like that, I had the most amazing grilled salmon there with a pesto glaze that I really want to try and recreate for myself at home; I talked to the NICEST server who was able to tell me some of the ingredients and would you believe it, one of them is lemon pepper? I have never thought to add that to a pesto! Anyway, I had the nicest visit with Rachel and we just talked and talked for hours until I realized that I needed to get back on the road if I was going to make it to Batesville before it got dark, because whenever I drive in the dark Grandmother and Mom both get so anxious and keep calling me and asking me where I am, you would think I was still a college student, with how little opinion they have of my navigation skills! So I'm on the road and as I pass through this tiny town called Wynne, I spot on the left side of the street a little car repair shop that I have never noticed before, but it looks so incredibly bedraggled and positively TRASHED that it looks over 50 years old, and I remember thinking to myself, Boy I hope I never have to go to that shop, I might never come back out of it, it looks so creepy! But I finally make it to Batesville and have a really good visit with my Grandmother, and we drive her car the entire time I'm there because it is just SO much easier for her to get in and out of it, because the seats are higher and so she doesn't have to bend her knees and swivel as much to get in, and I tell you, I don't know how she manages on her own because it really seems very uncomfortable for her to get in and out of her car, it's one of those old Mercury Marquis sedans the size of a BOAT, but it's in really nice shape because she drives it so little and...*
You get my point.

I think this is the sort of habit that everyone can agree is extremely annoying; but I also think it is the sort of habit that can be curbed, if we can only find a way to make the speaker aware of what they are doing. A great deal of tedium can be avoided and society will be the better for it. I think it is more prevalent in the aged (and I suspect) women, which means a certain amount of politeness and consideration must be employed so that they don't become offended. Because really, we have all encountered Rabbit-Trailers in our lives, and I suspect most of us have thought to ourselves, "I will NEVER get to be like that!" so it stands to reason that if we realize we are doing it, we will try hard to stop.

So spread this post among your friends and family. It doesn't need to be specifically to the ones who are doing it; but it needs to be posted on FB and various social media so that hopefully, the Rabbit-Trailers will stumble across it and make the connection to themselves.

Steps to Reverse Rabbit-Trailing
  1. Be aware that you are a Rabbit-Trailer.
  2. Tell your friends about your problem.
  3. Give them permission to stop you when you start Rabbit-Trailing.
If we can spread the word about this pernicious disease, we will all be a great deal happier with our friends, and the aged will be far less likely to be avoided out of boredom or annoyance.

*story not based on real events; invented to make a point.