Penniless Tim

November 10, 2010

Embarrassing Moments – Speech Class 101

Filed under: College,Humor — Tim @ 11:19 pm

Embarrassing moments litter our lives (and their recyclable).  Oversleeping, forgetting to change, and entering the classroom tardy attired in Mickey Mouse pajamas or wearing a nerdy, one of a kind, aquamarine, fluffy, Mom purchased 1/2 price store discount rack nylon sweater into the first day of high school and discovering your best friend (who sits next to you in four classes) is wearing the same one of a kind, 1/2 price store discount rack sweater purchased by his Mom.  The pajamas were a dream while the sweater was a nightmare.  Years later, I still become flushed in the presence of fluffy sweaters.  One of my more memorable (or unmemorable) embarrassing moments was the second day of Iowa State University’s Speech Class 101.

Public speaking is not my forte.  I’d rather wear a nerdy, fluffy, aquamarine sweater into high school than give a speech  (including talking to myself in the mirror).  Full of witty comebacks when everyone leaves the room, writing is my preference – start with some garbled words, rewrite, borrow ideas off the internet, and mix until words almost make sense (C. S. Lewis has nothing to fear).  Unfortunately, you cannot graduate college without a public speaking course.  On a positive note, speech class is bound to have more females than Differential Equations or Physics and women are required to engage in conversation (at least during class).

It was my sophomore year’s spring schedule and I needed an additional course – options were Differential Equations at 8 AM or Speech at 11 AM . Differential Equations is a prerequisite for numerous other courses and failure to complete quickly would delay graduation while Speech is only a graduation prerequisite and could be the last class completed before graduation.  The choice was obvious – I opted for sleep and chose Speech class.

On the first day of class, I confidently marched into the classroom and sat front and center in the back row.  Within several minutes, our professor briskly walked into the room and loudly introduced herself as Professor Talksalot (name changed to protect the innocent and my bad memory).  She instantly commanded attention with her military speaking tone, authoritative presence, and interesting appearance – visualize Janis Joplin dressed like Sarah Palin.  Professor Talksalot emphasized two goals for Speech 101 – expand public speaking abilities and better communication skills with each other.  She promptly rendered our first assignment – a comprehensive speech introducing ourselves.

I was a bundle of nerves the entire week preceding class.  The key to Speech class is preparation and I prepared more than I’d ever prepared for anything – more than the twenty minutes spent preparing for the ACT test, more than the thirty minutes practicing trombone for the school marching band parade, and even more than the forty minutes shooting free-throws before my first junior high basketball game (darn near got in the game, too).  True to my word, I began preparing the speech well before midnight the evening before speech class and spent an entire Late Night with David Letterman episode reviewing and revising the speech.  My masterpiece was complete!

Early next morning after oversleeping breakfast (again), I confidently sauntered into Speech Class 101 and, feeling a little cocky, sat in the next to last row.  A few minutes later Professor Talksalot marched into the classroom, viewed her notes, skipped small talk, and commanded, “Everyone rearrange the chairs into a large circle!  Our first speaker shall be Robert Bauers.”

Silently we loudly dragged our chairs into a circle until I heard Professor Talksalot announce, ” Oh, sorry, Bauers already dropped the class!  Our first speaker shall be Timothy Scott.  Tim, please go to the center of the circle and start when you’re ready.”

My mind began racing with thoughts,  “What?!  First!  I couldn’t win a drawing if I was by myself, but she picks me out of thirty.  I can’t believe it – why don’t we go in alphabetical order or tall people first!  Slow down heart!  Calm down! Take a deep breath! Breath in, breath out.  Take a step.  Breath in!  Did I put on deodorant?  Why isn’t it working?  Walk toward the circle.  Breathe.  One more step.  Breathe.  Walk into the circle.  Walk to the center. Breathe.  I’m sweating like a pig, can anyone tell?  Everyone is staring at me!  Oh no, I wore my pajamas!  Breathe!  Whew, I don’t have on pajamas.  They’re still staring at me!  What am I going to say?  Breathe!  Pretend everyone is all naked!  It’s not working!  Everyone is staring, is my fly open?  Breathe!  Concentrate!  Say something!  Say anything!”

Perfectly calm and collected, I made eye contact with an empty chair and squeaked, “Uh, hi, my name is, um, um, Tim.  Tonight’s top ten, um, uh, sorry, sorry!”

I quoted David Letterman!  A perfectly rehearsed speech gone awry in the first sentence.  Embarrassment flushed my cheeks, but I stood firm, reestablished eye contact with the chair, and mumbled in my clearest voice, “I live in, um, the Hanson Dormitory at, uh, Larch Hall and am, uh, from, uh, Sioux City.”

Twenty seconds down!  Emboldened, mumbled nearly intelligible words escaped as I became a Polka performer in a Cirque du Soleil show.  I stammered, “I’m an engineering major,” stuttered “Tom is my brother,” mumbled “I have a dog Herman,” jabbered, “I’m wearing Fruit of the Loom,” grumbled “Dorm food isn’t good,” sputtered “My shoes are a  9 1/2!” and continued discussing modern relevant issues with my friend the empty chair.

Finally, I reached the once rehearsed speeches’ end and my two left feet verbal dance was over.  Or was it?  Daring a glance in Professor Talksalot’s direction , the wall clock perched above her head screamed, “It’s only been two minutes!  That isn’t a comprehensive speech!”

Panic should have overwhelmed me, but the empty chair’s thoughtful presence gave comfort as an eerie calmness enshrouded me.  Suddenly, a dangerous thought raced through my mind, “So Talksalot wants something comprehensive, does she?  I’ll give her something to comprehend!”

In the next few minutes, a lifetime of emotions flowed to the surface.  I psychoanalyzed personal decisions, shared dreams unfulfilled, identified nightmares realized, and became a verbal pugilist squaring off against deep seated emotions in the company of thirty new intimate friends.  Finishing the speech with an intuitive jab and emotional roundhouse, I made eye contact with my new found friends.  A strange, empty look permeated the room.  What did it mean?  Suddenly, I recognized the gaze – a sane person observing an insane outburst (or a cheerleader’s glazed gaze when I ask her out on a date).  Humiliation coursed through my body followed by an explosion of deep, insightful thoughts, “I’m a knucklehead!  What am I thinking?  Can I drop out of class?  Should I change my name?  I need my Mommy!”

I cowered from the circle’s center and searched for a back row seat.  Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a back row in a circle (circle of life my ***).  An empty chair, my only friend, beckoned and I burrowed into the seat.  Professor Talksalot meticulously called forth other students and the next 110 minutes deep were filled with emotional speeches such as, “My name is Bill and I like Vanilla ice cream.  I’m a Tri Delta and have a cat named Fuzzy.  I really don’t have a favorite color, but am fond of blue and green.  I chose engineering because I enjoy making things.  My favorite place in the whole world is Lacross, Wisconsin.  I have ten fingers and ten toes.  Salt is salty.  Turkey canoe has cheese.”

Finally, the onward march of one minute speeches mercifully ended – 29 speeches completed in 29 minutes with one fifteen minute speech kicking it off.  Melded with the chair, I waited for everyone’s departure before giving the chair a big hug and exiting the room.  Aimlessly meandering about campus for several hours, I finally gathered enough composure to attend another class – how could I restore my confidence!?  Entering the classroom, I found every back row seat occupied, twenty shoe staring, eye contact avoiding, Stark Trek loving students, and a bearded, Birkenstock wearing, bow tie attired professor staring at his own shoes – Computer Science to the rescue!



  1. Hilarious. Thanks for sharing your forgettable moment–I had some face plants as well during public speaking attempts.

    Comment by Slamdunk — December 10, 2010 @ 12:55 am | Reply

    • Glad you enjoyed reading it! I’ve now doubled it’s viewership (made my wife read it last week).

      Comment by Penniless Tim — December 10, 2010 @ 11:54 pm | Reply

  2. […] want a quarterly Christmas), my subject matter was wide open.  Naive Tim posted a story about speech class and, like they say, everything is found on the internet.  The post had 11 views, one positive […]

    Pingback by Therapeutic writing « Penniless Tim — January 21, 2011 @ 11:11 pm | Reply

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I especially loved the part where you said “my two left feet verbal dance was over.” I just fumbled on a speech today for a similar class. Cheers!

    Comment by Kari — November 29, 2011 @ 6:43 pm | Reply

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