Tell Me What’d I Say!
Whenever I am spotted sipping port on a hillside far from town it is because I am due in town to m-m-m-make (sorry, I get nervous just thinking about it) a speech. I don’t much like lounging on nature-infested surfaces, and port makes me pucker, but I will take them any day over public speaking.
This wasn’t always the case. As a young man of 18 (months, that is) I’d toddle into any room and hold forth on topics ranging from “What I Want” (piece of candy) to “When I Want It” (now!).
But no self-respecting orator can go on like that forever, naked and begging for sweets. Eventually he must slip into something less comfortable and tackle more meaty topics, like “The Mideast Crisis—When Will They Learn?”
The problem is, with maturity has come the alarming realization that I possess none of the skills of an effective speechmaker.
For one, I can never bring myself to look at the audience. It just seems rude. That they are staring at me is bad enough. I needn’t stoop to their level.
So I fix my gaze on the papers I am holding at nose’s length, which contain carefully plagiarized thoughts that I can’t for the life of me read because they (the papers—though the same can be said of my thoughts) are trembling at a frantic pace.
The root of this anxiety, doctors assure me, is “Some sort of phobia?” Harsh lighting, spider-infested podiums, carefully aimed citrus fruits—their speculation is endless.
Then there’s my voice, which is as two-faced as they come. At home in front of the mirror, it is commanding and resonant, serving up Oscar-worthy impressions of Gregory Peck as Abraham Lincoln in Julius Caesar (“IV score and VII years ago . . .”). But the moment I become the focal point of a packed auditorium, it squeals something awful before trailing off into a whimper.
If trembling, squealing and whimpering weren’t disconcerting enough, it’s frankly quite lonely up there. If I had some loving soul at my side to hold my hand and mop my brow I might stand a chance. Better yet, give me three women of color (preferably black) with the kind of chops that enhanced so many Ray Charles albums and I’d be off to the races.
Tell Me What’d I Say! — 2
If I stumbled out of the gate with a feeble “Good eeevening, ahem, ladieees and, er, gentlemen . . .” my backup speakers would punctuate it with: “HE SAID, GOOD EEEEEV-A-NIN’, Y’ALL! (YES HE DID, YES HE DID.)”
Or perhaps I flubbed a key line. Perhaps I meant to say, “We mustn’t fret about the problems of other nations” but blurted out, “Weee muss’n treff bouta thee . . . ” They’d jump to my rescue with: “DONCHA FRET, FOLKS! (NO DON’T, NO DON’T.)”
Come to think of it, this arrangement would work wonders, too, when asking for a r-r-r . . .
“HE WANNA RAISE! YEA, HE WANNA RAISE!”
(Now that’s talking.)