Growing up, I was a shy curmudgeon. To overcome my shyness, I joined the oratory society and the debate club. Thanks to the efforts of a spinsterish teacher named Miss Green – an unsmiling but kindly woman who pounded into me the basics of pronunciation, concise speech and complete sentences – I learned the fundamentals of public speaking and the power of debate.
These results did not mean that I was ready to compete with Tony Robbins and give inspirational speeches to large audiences. I encountered a few obstacles along the way which I can only describe as unintended consequences.
Moderator: Welcome to the next round of the Mudville Middle School oratory contest. We will select two contestants to move on to the finals. Each contestant will be given a topic, selected at random, for which they will deliver a two minute response. Mr. Maas, you are our first contestant and your topic is “Should lawmakers lower the drinking age to 18 instead of 21?” You have two minutes.
Mr. Maas clears his throat and begins his thoughtful response. He explains the benefits of lowering the drinking age and inconsistencies involved in keeping the age set at 21. He contrasts these benefits with the potential dangers that might result from allowing younger adults to drink.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Maas. Well done. Now, Ms. Lunga, you are our second contestant. Your topic is “Should schools have the right to perform drug searches or drug tests among the students? Two minutes, Ms. Lunga.
Ms. Lunga, with bravado and exuberance, gives her response. She first focuses on the matters of safety in conducting drug searches and tests and then contrasts these measures with arguments based around civil liberties. She even notes the differences that should exist between public and private schools.
Moderator: Very well done indeed, Ms. Lunga. And now we come to our third and final contestant, Mr. Curmudgeonal.
Me: It’s Curmudgeon-at-Large.
Moderator: Excuse me?
Me: It’s Curmudgeon-at-Large. My name is Curmudgeon-at-Large, not Curmudgeonal.
Moderator: Don’t get smart with me, kid. Just answer your question. Your question is “What are the effects of vaginal atrophy on the macro-economics of Burkina-Faso?”
Me: [Stunned silence]
Moderator: Young man, we need your response.
Me: Would you please use it in a sentence?
Me: Would you.. Would you please use vaginal atrophy in a sentence?
Moderator: Look, son, this isn’t a spelling bee. Just give us your response in two minutes. The clock has already started.
I did not make it to the next round.
Hahahaha! …luck of the draw, I guess. I’m not sure why you hadn’t prepared for such a question — seems pretty standard to me.
Glad that you got entertained by my unpreparedness.
I thought they were teaching about global vaginal atrophy in elementary school. What were you guys doing? Earth Science? pshaw.
PS You are hilarious.
I must have been out with the measles that week. Glad that you enjoyed the post.
*stunned silence* …followed by hearty yet rueful laughter. I had a similar experience in our school oratory contests, but unlike you, I wasn’t smart enough to keep my mouth shut when I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Much humiliating babbling ensued. Needless to say, I did not advance to the next round, either.
It should have read ‘stunned silence with mouth gaping.’ Glad you enjoyed the post.