Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Whoops Again

It has been another “whoops why did I say that week”—and again I wasn’t the only one to have a slip of the tongue. In my old age, I have become a standup comic, AKA lecturer in Intellectually Active Old People Land. Many worthwhile organizations are constantly seeking brilliant lecturers, so if you are good, you work a lot. The not-so-hidden purpose of my new career is to spread the word about my book. The first time I gave my schpiel about how I reinvented my life after leaving teaching it was to an audience of folks I knew well. If I put my foot in my mouth, they knew me and loved me, so the world would not fall apart if I goofed.

Yesterday’s talk was a different story. The audience was a room full of strangers, all who had paid dearly to hear brilliant lecturers stimulate their gray matter. I had heard the speaker who preceded me on many occasions. He doesn’t miss a beat from start to end and keeps his audience’s follow-up discussions focused. As soon as someone strays from the topic, he has the skill to say quickly, “Good point, we’ll get back to that later.”

The comment hurts no one and prevents what I call “Show and Tell” discussions from ruining his talk—in other words, he knows how to keep control of the discussion and not give it to those who think their comment is relevant, but in actuality has zero to do with the topic.

There was a big difference between this speaker and me. He had his date booked months ago and was being paid. He had months to prepare. All he had to do yesterday was show up, talk, collect his money, and leave. I was a substitute—a last minute booking and agreed to talk free for the right to sell my book before and after my talk. My goal was to “get my book out there.” My purpose was not to educate but to sell. The real aim of my speech was to motivate the audience to buy the book by whetting their appetite with tidbits from the book. The talk went well—I heard lots of laughter—but when I asked for questions or comments, I goofed. One of the tidbits I divulged as an “appetizer” was the book contained the solution to the leading cause of acid reflux—splitting restaurant checks with others when you’re not the one who ran up the bar bill. One question that came up was, “How did you solve the problem?”

As a teacher, it was important to anticipate any question. As a lecturer, I’m learning that the questions being thrown at me are good, but I’m not anticipating them.  Thus my answers to the questions aren’t the words I would have uttered if I had time to think about them. I responded, “You’ll have to buy the book to find out.”

This nice lady’s head went down along with my heart. I immediately apologized to her, especially since the audience laughed at my retort. True, the purpose of the lecture was to make people want to buy the book; however selling a book by innocently hurting someone is not my style. Since she immediately started to write down notes, my nightmare was she was doing a review of me and my future as a speaker was doomed.

I shared my goof with two friends. One, who runs many of these types of lectures, said I should have used the word “read” in lieu of “buy.” She told me famous authors do it all the time. I prayed all night that she was right and not just wanting to calm me. The morning headlines of the local paper didn’t doom me, but these inserts were written last week. I’ll let you know next week if I’m in trouble.

I also called my other friend—the one I wrote about last week who lives on a block where the germ causing oral diarrhea is worse than on mine. Once again, her story outdid mine. It seems she and her significant other of many years were walking in a nearby park. He was engrossed in conversation, didn’t notice something blocking his path, and went flying through the air. My friend panicked and screamed out a name, but it wasn’t his. It was her ex’s whom she divorce decades ago.

Her error was worse than mine—unless mine brings me negative press reviews.

Monday, February 7, 2011

No, No, That's Not What I Meant

True Confession: I am afflicted with a condition politely known as “Edaisms,” and impolitely known as “oral diarrhea.” The best definition for this “disease” is “Edaisms” are when words totally unrelated to what I want to say or what should say come cascading out of my mouth. These moments occur when my brain is multitaskin, and I’m not solely focused on what the unsuspecting speaker is saying. Sudden silence either in the room or at the other end of the phone usually awakens my consciousness to the fact it is my turn to talk. With that, I try to think of what was last discussed before my brain drifted elsewhere, and unless I admit that I didn’t quite hear the speaker, it is not uncommon for me to make a fool of myself by my answer. To combat this “illness” I try to repeat to myself, “stay focused” over and over. It usually helps, but not always.

“Edaisms” cause two things: unintentionally offending someone or having someone think I’m missing a link. Last week, when a friend called to firm up previously made plans, I was mortified and petrified. I had no clue to what she was referring to because I inadvertently didn’t write the date—made over a month prior— on my overcommitted social calendar. Hubby and I had made unchangeable plans weeks prior with several other couples for the same date, and that date was on all three of my calendars and set in stone.

As I said in previous blogs, forgetting scares me to my core because of my very real fear of dementia. My error of not writing the first date or referring to my calendar when I made the plans that I had to back out of, offended someone whom I adore. In an effort to defuse the situation, I wanted to say, “I wish I could be more flexible with my schedule.” Wanted—but didn’t. Instead I said, “I wish you could be more flexible.” The words came out, and to be gross, sometimes things come out that really stink. Common knowledge: stinks can’t be put back. You just have to hope there is plenty of fresh wind to blow them away before they do real damage.
A few days later, someone who is very well traveled and knows the ropes—someone whose opinion I would seek if I needed travel advice—told me she was going on a particular cruise ship. What popped into my head was, “She will be the one to let me know if the ship is really great or too oversized—both views that I have heard.” Instead of keeping my thoughts internal, I blurted out, “Some of my friends hate the ship and others loved it.” I HATE when people do this to me—tell me I might regret plans already made—so why on earth did this stupid comment flow from my lips? I was so upset when I got home, I sat and ate half a gallon of Moose Tracks ice cream. I rationalized it was sugar free but ignored the fat content.

The next morning I shared my latest bout of socially unacceptable “Edasims” with a friend who is a therapist. My friend immediately hit the cause of the resurgence of my socially unacceptable “disease.” She told me that something must be in the water of our community. “Not only was one of the men we were out with last night guilty of “oral diarrhea,” she said, “but I responded the same way and my answer had me up the entire night.”

Her story dwarfed mine. Her tablemate assumed she had a “nose job” and told her so. Despite her insistence to the contrary, he kept harping on the fact it had to be “plastic” since it was so perfect. She knew the only way she could stop the conversation was if she changed the topic. “How many years ago did you get you’re penal implant?” she asked.

Silence filled the air. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what others in the room must have been thinking. Me? I’m glad I don’t live on her block. The drinking water there is more toxic than mine. My “Edaisms” might become so rude, I’d have to move!