Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Talking out of the seat of my pants

A funny thing happened on the way to a speaking engagement this morning .. but you have to know the background first.

I was scheduled to speak to 100+ women at Summa .. about TV and the war in Iraq ... around 10:30 a.m. One of the first people I met in the lobby was Gail Billow-Long ... who was "Ms. Billow" at Jennings Middle School in the 1980's. She taught sewing and home ec. classes. I still have a teddy bear that I made in her class.

Knowing that, how's this for karma and coincidence:

A short time after exchanging hellos with some of the women in the lobby, one of the nice Summa ladies got the attention of my wife, Lisa, to let her know of a serious problem.

She tactfully let my wife know that the entire left side of the back of pants had ripped out. Yep. Ripppppppppppp! I have no idea how it happened unless I caught it on something. Nevertheless, Ms. Billow went to get a sewing kit to try to "fix me up." Bless her heart. As she and the other women stood there surveying ways to salvage my backside, Ms. Billow told me that since I didn't rip a seam, there's nothing she could do for me.

In other words, my pants were done. Time of death: 10:31 a.m.

Another nice lady offered to tape me up .. and a nice gentleman from the audio visial department offered to get me some doctors scrubs. What? No one had a kilt? Both were good plans in a crisis, but I neither wanted a butt full of duct tape nor to look like I was making a cameo on General Hospital.

Long story short, I quickly accepted that while embarassment was kicking me in the butt, there was no turning back .. so I decided to just go in there and speak as scheduled.

I opened my talk by asking how many women in the audience had sons, and about 60 percent raised their hands. Seeing that, I told them "well, I guess you won't be offended that half of my backside is hanging out of a rip in my pants." They laughed pretty good at that one.

The talk progressed harmlessly from there ... I knew I was among moms, so that was good enough.

Among the questions I took was one from a nice woman who asked if I thought Hillary Clinton would get any votes from the vast number of men in this country who are addicted to pornography. About 100 humerous comebacks came to mind involving me spinning around to show off my southern exposure, but I thought better of adding yet another joke about my decimated dockers.

As a regular speaker, I always look for ice breakers .. but never have I had one literally just bite me in the butt.

Looking back, I'd say the talk went fine .. and the ladies asked some nice questions which made me feel nice. Still, it was a good lesson to learn: speaking in public might scare some people to death, but if you and the audience both have kids, you have more in common than you might think.


Cat Ellen said...

Wow! I imagine you're not the only one who still has their finished products from Ms. Billows' class... I still have my apron and stuffed kitty cat.

What a wonderful story (and great insight) -- thanks for sharing it with us.

Ben said...

yes, I would say that question about Hillary is an icebreaker.

vanillacokehead said...

This reminds me of the most embarrassing moment when I was a TV news photographer.

I had just spent the last hour following around this Russian doctor at this hospital near Rochester, NY. As my reporter and I were about to leave, said doctor pointed out to me that my fly was open - by poking at my crotch. I was mortified.