Posted on May 26, 2010


Not only is there always a backstory, I’m inclined to believe there’s also usually a sidestory.

We’re all familiar with the backstories of people whom we care about and understand. We know the “whys” and the “whats” that are part of their “how” in dealing with life, and we consider that as part of their whole “them.” The more mature we get, the more perceptive we are at noticing a hint or possibility of a backstory that isn’t tacitly acknowledged, but for which we’ll give credit.

The whole idea of a backstory is that there is something which occurred before, something which contributes to what we’re seeing now. I tend to believe that there are things occurring simultaneously, to the sides, which relate to what we’re seeing now, and are much more important than we frequently realize.

Yesterday I had a major wrench thrown in my plot, which spun off some interesting sidestories, in many ways superior to the story I was trying to create. I have been twiddling with them since, glad for the wrench. Talks with my kids about important things, a crisis and a chance to be bigger than we might, a “no” answer (which is always the best answer to stimulate something interesting), priorities re-evaluation, and the “staying loose” that occurs when we just plain don’t get our way.

Today was Wrench, Part II, in which two separate individuals living over 160 miles away from me could not figure out the benefits of a fax machine. Honestly, we handled everything else by phone, but neither scanner, nor fax, nor same-day fed-ex seemed to be within the realm of possibility, so I drove clear the heck to Egypt (aka Vernal.)

Samantha joined me, piled high with sleeping bags and pillows and fruit, to have some Mom time. That’s an interesting sidestory. What would you give to have 7 hours of one-on-one with one of your kids? Full gas tank: $100. Time with Sam: priceless. I arrived in Vernal to meet a young man who has an exceptional relationship with his employer, a small-time odds-jobs mechanic. Like an uncle and his favorite nephew, they work amiably together. Is it the situation the federal agency for which I work idealizes? No. No business cards, no tax ID number, no public authenticity. They both drive beat-up 70’s era pickups and chew on soda straws while they talk. Are they successful? Wildly.

My young graduate has dreams, and his employer is willing to give him space to explore them while he has a little help with his own projects. No contract, no severance package, no health plan. He pays this young man when this young man works. How much more straightforward can you get than that?

I drove home for two and half hours thinking about how that simplifies an economy to have no layers between you and your passion, you and your client, you and your livelihood. Do I wish this easy-going employer could use a fax? I’m not so sure, now. I might have missed a useful sidestory.

Every time a wrench comes flying in (it ought to be my avatar for my familiarity with it) it brings with it a sidestory or two. My life has been enriched by those sidestories, and I’m more inclined as I get older to be attentive not only to backstories, but sidestories, in the lives of others.

Unless, of course, they ruin it all by saying, “I’m sorry.”  😉

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