On Saturday, I performed at Next Door in New Haven, Connecticut. Elysha wasn’t able to join me, so Jeni Bonaldo, my friend and fellow teacher, storyteller, and writer, came along. We were eating pizza before the show, in need of drinks, when Jeni pointed to the server and said, “I’ll order drinks when she comes by.”
Except it wasn’t a server. She was pointing to a customer, and stupidly, I told her so. Rather than experiencing the joy of watching Jeni ask a customer to get us drinks, I warned her before the mistake could be made and ruined a potentially delicious moment.
I was so annoyed with myself. Also still drinkless.
A moment later, Jeni asked the actual server to get us drinks, except this person was a customer, too.
Yes. After nearly asking a customer to get us drinks, Jeni then asked a different customer to get us drinks.
I reveled in her error, of course, which became even more delightful when that customer actually bought us drinks, which was the perfect response to Jeni’s blunder.
Later, when I took the stage to perform, I opened by saying, “I’ve never dedicated a story to anyone before, and I don’t advise it, but I feel compelled to dedicate this next story to all the people in the room who Jeni Bonaldo has mistaken for a server tonight.”
The room burst into laughter, which is a damn good way to begin a story.
Here’s the thing:
I’ve stood on hundreds of stages over the last decade, telling stories, performing standup, and delivering speeches of every kind. Many of those performances are great fun but ultimately unremarkable.
The performance goes well, then I go home. Give it enough time and the moment becomes almost forgettable.
But sometimes, a performance becomes remarkable and unforgettable for a multitude of reasons.
I cherish those moments.
Jeni’s blunder and subsequent embarrassment made my performance on Saturday night at Next Door in New Haven unforgettable. The day may come when I can’t recall the story I told (though I have an extensive database for this very purpose) or the pizza I ate or even the name of the venue, but I’ll never forget the night Jeni nearly mistook a customer for a server then mistook a different customer for a server.
There’s a saying in storytelling:
You have a good time, or you have a good story.
On Saturday night, I had both, thanks to Jeni.