"Let me tell you a story . . ."

I was watching an episode of the Wire the other day, season 4, where Councilman Carcetti has a talk with the former mayor of Baltimore. When Carcetti asks him why he didn’t run for reelection after his first term, the former mayor starts his reply with, “Let me tell you a story . . . .” He goes on to tell a figurative story (a parable, I guess) about arriving his first day and being handed bowl after bowl of shit to eat by various constituencies in Baltimore politics — the Irish, the blacks, the Poles, etc.

It occurred to me that I never respond to a question with “Let me tell you a story.” I know enough to include anecdotes in my writing and in presentations, but in conversation I tend to quickly veer towards abstraction, wondering what the big forces are at play, whether there’s any data out there. This is a useful response for an academic but I realize some people don’t find this style of communicating very persuasive. I think pretty much everyone loves stories, and only a few people really like data.

Answering a question with “Let me tell you a story” is such a big-shot move that I’m not sure I can pull it off with a straight face, but I’m going to try, as a social experiment. Watch out.