Why do people walk out of storytelling shows? Here’s why.

So I’m at a storytelling show. The audience is friendly and warm, and the person who’s telling a story has us captivated. Fifteen minutes in, two young women stomp loudly into the room. They scoot past everybody to sit in the very front and whisper loudly to each other. The storyteller heroically manages to ignore them, but I’m appalled.

The audience LIKES this story. We want to know what HAPPENS and we want the two women to SHUT THE HELL UP.

Ten minutes later, as the excellent story heads to the climax, their whispered conversation gets louder until finally they both get up, scoot past everyone in the room, and walk out the door.

If they had been hired to disrupt this story, they couldn’t have done a better job. I’m FURIOUS. I’m furious for the audience, but I’m incandescent with rage for the storyteller. He has to keep telling the story even though two people have just walked out.

When the story finishes, the host announces a break. I tell the storyteller what a fantastic job he did, and how much I loved the story. When we all sit back down, the host says, “Okay, so you know those two women who came in late and then walked out in the middle of the story? There’s a life lesson there, and it’s this: don’t put your Shih Tzu dog in your purse and then go to a storytelling show, because when it inevitably poops inside your purse, you’re going to have to go home anyway.”

A woman in the audience says, “Oh my god, I smelled that! I thought someone just had terrible gas,” and everyone laughs and laughs.

And I sit there thinking: you never have ANY IDEA why someone walks away from your story. You think you do, but you don’t. Because if I’d given you 47 guesses as to why those two women walked out, you STILL would not have guessed “her purse dog had a smelly poo”.

So. I actually learned TWO life lessons. One, don’t bring purse dogs to shows. Two, unless someone tells you why, you cannot reliably guess why they do anything. Especially walking away from your story.

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