Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Cringe-Worthy Tale from the Why Does The Over-Thinker Keep Trying to Speak in Public -File

I'm pretty proficient at all things communication.

I love to write, to converse, to entertain.

I also, apparently, love to embarrass myself in front of enormous crowds.

The story I'm about to tell you is so horrifyingly true, that it will forever be burned into your brain as reference for when you need something to think about after saying "Well, it could've been worse."

This story, my friends, is the epitome of "worse." I don't even need to embellish this experience with added color; no, no, this is quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I have ever done. Ever. I've set the bar pretty high this time.

Let me begin by saying that immediately following this experience, I phoned my mom to vent about the mortification and halfway through my story, she said she needed to call me back because she was having trouble breathing from laughing so hard. My mom, ladies and gentlemen - a cheerleader for the ages! Truth be told, she's been clued in to my idiocy for a few decades so I think she simply chooses to see these trials as sheer entertainment, rather than supportive opportunities. She doesn't toss in "oh it can't be that bad" when I tell her she'll never believe what I just did; she knows better. Just scroll through the archives of this blog and you'll see that I've given her plenty of material.

Okay - so here's what happened....

Outside of work, I sit on a board that has a lot of ties to my alma mater - because of this, I've had opportunities to mentor students who are in the early days of entering the food industry. Mentoring is one of the BEST parts of my professional life - I love it. I have mentored formally and informally, both on and off campus, and never thought it would lead to the most awkward moment of my short-life. Pretty sure this moment actually shaved a few years off said life.

I was asked to do the following: Drive 60 miles to my former university and meet with some seniors (about 20) and give them some coaching for interviewing, experience-building, etc. After doing this, I was asked to introduce a former professor to a group of people who were going to be doing a wine-pairing/tasting with him. He is a master-sommalier as well as ridiculously well-skilled in all things culinary.

It is important to note that I was dressed very casually for this - I was not directed otherwise. I was wearing a nice pair of jeans, a white cotton dress shirt, a sweater vest and some brown heels - nothing to sneeze at but definitely nothing to write home about either; basic and CASUAL.

After I spoke to the students, I was told the wine-tasting was being held in the student center. It was raining out by now and I didn't have an umbrella so I quickly made my way over to the center, procuring a hideous, drowned-rat appearance along the way. Swell.

I walked to the room that was noted, opened the double doors and immediately thought Whoops! Wrong Room! Because there was NO FRIGGIN' WAY I BELONGED IN THIS ROOM. This room was filled with about 250+ people, dressed to the 9's in black-tie regale. The room was laid out as if there was a wedding reception about to occur - large, round, 10-top tables, scattered around the enormous room with a long table at the front. The lights were dimmed, people were mingling...I had entered FANCY-TOWN and I was NOT FANCY.

I heard someone say my name and I turned to see another gal on the board. Her outfit had SEQUINS. I DID NOT HAVE SEQUINS. I had the latest drowned-rat couture with a side of Target-shirt. Holy hell.

She said, "Oh great! You're here! Let's get you wired with a mic."
Me (outloud): Oh sure!
Me (internal): What? WHAT? 

"Did you get a chance to look at the program? Is your career-info accurate?"
Me (outloud): Oh sure!
Me (internal): What? WHAT'S HAPPENING?? There's a program? I'm in a friggin' program?

Oh my GOD - let me tell you - I'm not a big armpit sweat kinda gal. I became an armpit sweat kinda gal. The sprinklers immediately turned on with a vengeance and the top band of my non-sequined jeans became moist with the trickles. Holy hell, again.

I had not thought that I would be speaking formally, in any sense of the word; I was going to ad-lib and present my professor in a more informal (no sequins) type of banter. This would not do. At all.

I had about 10 minutes before I was up.

I had just learned, that in addition to introducing him, that I would also need to talk a bit about myself and my educational/career journey. Sounds pretty simple, but when you're drenched in rain and sweat, feeling horrendously inadequate, a simple task becomes EPIC.

What was my name? What did I do for a living? Oh my GOD, what's the name of this school???

I wrote some babble-words down on the program (the one with my name in it....gah..) and headed to the front of the room. It is important to note that I didn't have to head far - THEY HAD SAT ME AT THE FRONT TABLE - FACING THE CROWD.

I looked out at the crowd which contained the Chancellor, the Director of HR for the entire county, the Director of Education for the University, the Provost, etc. I cleared my throat and this is what followed:

Good Evening.

My name is Over-Thinker (not really) and I'm a graduate from the Class of....uh....2000....uh...4? 
At this point, I looked at my professor who was standing next to me, for help. I COULDN'T REMEMBER WHEN I GRADUATED. He looked at me, shrugged, and had to look down at the floor because he started laughing. LAUGHING. The little-shakes kind of laugh.

(throat clearing from me and murmuring from the crowd)

Yes, 2004. I currently work at XXX as a Culinarian and I couldn't have professionally achieved what I have without the solid poly-technic foundation that I was given here.

This is the last lucid thing I said. For sure. I would've been better off if I did a jig, a la Ashley Simpson, and somersaulted out of the room. Instead, I decided to keep talking. Fatal flaw. FATAL.

This is also the point where my mic became HOT.

I am proud to introduce EEEEEEEEEE!! um, introduce EEEEEEE!!!! Um, oh boy. Um EEEEEE!!! 

At this point, I thought it would be a great idea to just pull my mic off and basically scream the rest of my intro at the crowd. You know, like how you talk louder when someone doesn't speak English. Totally works, I'm pretty sure. 


The crowd is now looking bewildered that they asked someone like me to talk. LOTS of murmurs.

My professor stepped closer to me, unclipped his mic, pulled some slack on the wire and held it out for me to use. Brilliant. Although now I was saying the rest of my intro, with my face about a foot from his chest, appearing as if I had my hair caught in a button. 

Okay, this next part really sucked. (I know, you're thinking - HOWISTHATPOSSIBLE?)

Here's what I had WANTED to say: Working in the Culinary industry is very challenging and can be physically and intellectually demanding. Professor X's challenging course-work more-than prepared me to be at the top of my culinary game when entering the workplace.

INSTEAD - here is what came out of my stupid mouth:

Professor X's classes were tough. He's a great teacher - very talented and wants to make others, uh...talented. He shared his skills and we took them to heart (?????). Anyone knows, if you can get through Professor X's class, you can get through anything. Yes you can.

Shoot me. Oh sweet, sweet Jesus, take me now.

At this point, my professor is shaking so hard with laughter that I was having a hard time speaking into his chest - it was bopping around so much. How rude. Yes - if only he would've stood still, it would have been perfect. (thought no one)

I chose to beat a hasty retreat to my seat and wrapped it up right then an there, with the following words:

Um, so.....well, here he is.

Remember that scene in Bridget Jones' Diary where she's introducing Mr. "Titspervert" - yup, just like that. The crowd reaction was THE EXACT SAME. 

I think 2 people in the crowd clapped. 

Worst part? I couldn't leave. I had to sit at that head table FACING the crowd that I'd just completely accosted with my verbal diarrhea. Thank God it was a wine-tasting. I tasted THE SHIT out of that wine - couldn't drink it fast enough.

Okay. Are you ready for the worst part? Because that's what happened next.....

After the event, we were all mingling about, putting on our coats and, for some reason, a ton of people were semi-circling around me. Probably wanted to see the freak close-up.

One person spoke up from the crowd and said: 
"Your professor is such an interesting person - so well-spoken and knows so much about wine, travel, food...I would love to talk to him about my recent trip to India but I'd be so intimidated."

I looked and her WHAT I WANTED TO SAY was: Oh he's great, no need to be intimidated, he'll make you feel like the smartest person in the room!

What I ACTUALLY SAID was: Oh he's great, no need to be intimidated, he'll make you smell like the fart in the room!

I had reversed the consonants - feel like the smartest.....smell like the fart....

It got super quiet and everyone just stared, open-mouthed at me.

I tried to recover by correcting myself and said: I'm sorry, I meant smell the fart....


I felt the blood drain from my face and knew it was over. Still, I made one final attempt to "fix" the situation and started to correct myself again. An older lady put her hand on my arm and quietly said, "I think you're done here."

I couldn't have said it better myself.


This concludes one of the most heinous experiences of my life. It's important to note that it's been 3 years since this happened and I still get sick to my stomach thinking that whenever I go back to mentor or talk that there's someone in the audience that probably knows me as the "smell the fart"-girl.



midlifenatalie said...

I don't know how you did it! I would have seen the sequins and excused myself faster than you could say smell the fart!

The captcha says to type the two words. The first word is 2100 which isn't a word at all! Are they trying to confuse me? Do they want me to write it in word form? If so then it would actually be four words. Two thousand one hundred or I guess I could say twenty-one hundred.

And the second word is playemo. And there is nothing playful about being emo.

Nothing But Bonfires said...

Oh my god, I read this in a scenario where I was supposed to be concentrating on something else (silently) and I almost had to leave the room because I was SHAKING WITH LAUGHTER and also CRYING. This is the best story I have ever heard. I thought it couldn't possibly get any worse and then....IT GOT WORSE. You poor, poor, poor thing.

Angella said...

I'm sitting here doing the little shake laughter. I'm sorry. ;)


Crackin Wax said...

She left out my favorite part of the ordeal--the phone call she made to me on the way home from the event. She started out by saying "promise you won't laugh, ok?" No pressure or anything! ;)


The Over-Thinker said...

@Natalie: Hindsight being 20/20, I would never have attending university - that would've nipped it in the bud.

@Holly: I need to begin offering a disclaimer - my "in-real-life" stories have a tendency to produce massive snorts from those with even the highest sense of decorum.

@Angella: Just think - your 3 children will be calling you with "Okay Mom, you'll NEVER believe what's happened"-stories in the very near future. Be afraid; be very afraid!

@YeOldeWaxCracker: To your credit, you didn't bust a gut and were only slightly mocking in your "there, there" intonations.

Sizzle said...

This is my first time at your blog and I am cry-laughing at my desk. OH MY HELL I'm so sorry for your embarrassment and also, so very, very amused. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Natalie said...

I have no idea why I felt the need to reread this, but I am now crying with laughter! It just gets funnier every time! Where are you??? We need some of your humor out here!

Crackin Wax said...

I agree with Natalie. WHERE THE EFF ARE YOU, WOMAN? ;)