The Story Economy Blog

This Actually Isn’t About a Chipmunk

chipmunkMy brother Herb told me I had to write this newsletter.

It involves a cat killing a chipmunk, so it may not be appropriate for all audiences.

But mostly it involves my brother being right. Which is so annoying.

Let’s start with the chipmunk. An unfortunate one snuck in through the vent pipe of our dryer (yes, we should have had a critter guard) and wound up inside our dryer, specifically down in the lint filter. We knew this because last Thursday afternoon, we started hearing scratching coming from inside the dryer.

The best option, my husband said, was probably just to let it die and then fish it out.

That sounded like a terrible option to me. So the next day, I called Herb, who happens to be a pest specialist (the rebranded term for exterminator). I’m on a kick of re-creating conversations lately (have you noticed this?). Ours went something like this:

“Uh, you need a critter guard on your vent pipe,” he said.

“Yeah, we know that now, dude.”

“I’m just telling you.”

“Okay, thanks. But how do we get rid of the chipmunk?”

“Two options: take the dryer apart and get it out, or let it die in there, and then take the dryer apart and get it out.”

“Those are terrible options. Can’t you just do something?”

“Oh, okay, right, the magic solution. Here, let me snap my fingers and make the chipmunk go away!”

“You are a smart ass.”

“Since you can’t reason with the chipmunk, you just have the two options. Which you already knew anyway.”

“Having a pest specialist in the family maybe isn’t all that great.”


We chose option number one (by “we” I mean my husband, who knows how to remove pieces of the dryer), and out crawled the poor little hobbled chipmunk, half dead, but alive enough that something needed to be done. I didn’t see this, I only heard, from up in my office, “Get the cat!”

I brought down my 15-year-old cat, Seattle, who meowed and look annoyed that I woke him up. Until he saw the chipmunk in the middle of the floor. And I probably don’t need to give you any more details on that.

Mutual Discovering

Part two is that when I saw my brother on Sunday at our mom’s house, he asked me if I was going to write about the chipmunk in my newsletter.

“Ew. No. Why?”

“Because when you called me to ask what to do, you already knew what to do. And that’s pretty much what you charge people big bucks for, right? Seems like a great topic.”

“That’s dumb.”

And then I woke up this morning, and thought: oh crap, I DO need to write about that.

Because the first part of almost every single project I work on is the telling-people-what-they-already-know part. But it’s actually less about telling than it is about mutual discovering. It’s why I like to work on things that I don’t know much about ‚Äì because I have to rely on the client to tell me the important things (instead of filling in the gaps myself). It’s in that telling that we start figuring stuff out that they hadn’t figured out before. Even though they already knew some form of it.

It used to make me nervous that I didn’t have some magic capability, where I could snap my fingers and the answer would materialize. Voila! And now I will send a telepathic signal to the chipmunk to explain to him how to crawl back out of the dryer vent!

But after many years of working with people on their various brands and businesses, I have realized that the magic happens in the questions asked and the statements of harsh truth and the misunderstandings that inspire clarification.

Or, as my smart-ass brother says, telling people what they already know, but in a different way.

I did point out to him that I actually do write things for people. A lot of things. It’s not all just jibber jabber.

“Whatever,” he said.

The whole thing makes me quite optimistic about humanity though. That we are usually able to solve our own problems, just by committing the time to talk them through with someone. That we actually don’t need magic solutions.

That all we need is each other.

And no, Herb, this does not make you the smartest man on earth.

As if.

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