Short February was packed to the seams with activity. Much of it connected to my enlarging role as a Toastmaster. I've become a Sergeant at Arms for one club, and organized the location for an officer training session.
Sergeants at Arms are responsible for all the behind the scenes set up work that allows a meeting to run smoothly.
I also made myself useful by presenting the material in what's known as a "canned speech." Usually, doing that is something reserved for more advanced Toastmasters than I am, but I was the only one who volunteered. I think the others knew what was ahead of me, and didn't want to go there again for another T-shirt.
Toastmasters International provides material on specific skills that members of each club must develop to excel at public speaking. This canned speech pointed out the subtleties that form an excellent, inspiring evaluation. I believed the process of presentation would be simple. Foolish, foolish, inexperienced me.
I knew I had nearly two weeks to prepare, and that all the necessary concepts were in the text. All I'd have to do was become familiar with it, right? So I settled back to make a serious dent in the pile of library books I'd requested to complete the requirements for my fiction proposal. Page, after chapter, after novel, the time rustled away until it was Saturday, the 20th.
The presentation was scheduled for Monday, February 22! I opened the cover of the speech text. The introduction contained a phrase that caught my eye.
"Use this as a guideline."
It should have set off shrieking alarms in my brain. I turned the page. DULL ideas, DRAB vocabulary, SOPORIFIC phrasing, HYPNOGOGIC cadence! Could I back out of this task? If I didn't present this material, the club would never gain the skills the members needed. If I did present it in this form, I'd put them to sleep. What a disaster. The only way to salvage the situation, and my integrity, was to rewrite the concepts in each paragraph, from the opening word to the closure.
I thanked the good Lord for the fiction writing skills I'd developed in the last decade and set to work. I sent up more thanks in the wee hours of Monday morning when the printer still had enough ink to print out a draft. There was just one problem. I never had a chance to practice. Carefully I slid the fresh copy into the outermost pocket of a portfolio to keep it from crumpling.
When I woke some hours later, Murphy's lawyer had arrived. It was snowing. Hard. (More later.)