What exactly is a shaggy dog story? This is the telling of a tale usually conveyed in a social setting that has no meaningful ending. The person reciting the yarn is spewing gibberish in an attempt to either start or be included in a conversation and their words tend to have no relation to subjects being discussed. What’s one to do?
From early childhood our parents & teachers have advised about the importance of being good listeners which is great, however advice about dealing with shaggy dog stories was never brought up. Let’s be more specific about where we’re forced to endure these stories.
You’re getting into a good book on a bus or plane, discussing football with a friend at a favorite bar, possibly settling in for a beautiful sunset at the beach or sharing a ride with friends when out-of-nowhere he or she begins a bizarre diatribe. You’ve been taught to be respectful and listen, but the endless narrative never stops. Most of us continue to suffer this torture because we don’t know how to effectively extricate ourselves from the ongoing agony. When asked about solutions for such encounters several generous souls have offered a variety of clever & practical ideas.
These range from responding to the call of nature, a need to check-in with a spouse or significant other, faking an urgent phone call, going to the bar for a refill, ordering something to eat, explaining you’ve forgotten to answer an important question posed by another individual not in the immediate area, waiving at someone across the room and then quickly joining them or one of my favorites, “I need to let my dog out.” Several urged that headphones are great when traveling by auto, bus, train or plane. These are tried & proven techniques, but they don’t always work.
During one recent onslaught by a notorious shaggy dog story teller known as “Super Sam” (not his real name) who was deep in the middle of a never-ending story, I apologized and excused myself explaining I’d forgotten about a previous commitment and needed to get going. Ole Sam became noticeably upset and snarled, “I wasn’t finished talking to you.” He’d just reached the thirty minute mark describing a trip to the grocer he’d made the previous day. I quickly shifted gears made a judgment call and announced my dog needed to be walked, right away.