Penniless Tim

January 21, 2011

Therapeutic writing

Filed under: Humor,writing — Tim @ 11:11 pm

I am in a paradigm reversal and hereby proclaim, “I’m writing to entertain, amuse, and satisfy only one person – myself!”

And Tim said, “Let there be a Penniless Tim blog!’  And it was so.  Venting against a neighbor, I created the Penniless Tim blog as a cheap, non-confrontational, anger management session- a therapeutic written verbalization oxymoron with an anonymous syntax.  I liked writing what I wrote!  It was mental yoga.

Since previous writing ventures were an annual Christmas card (kids 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 comment, and another viewer ‘liked’ the site.  Eleven views without even trying, what if I really tried?  Do you think the New York Times will contact me?  Book deals?  New career?  I achieved a spontaneous, instantaneous internet addiction; WordPress was my crack pipe and people views my fix.  The WordPress dashboard, flush with bar chart statistics, lured me into the dark, sinister, and nefarious blogging world.

I scoured other blog sites using the WordPress website as a jumping off point.  Reading blog postings, I would add a quick comment – a cookie crumb back to my site.  Initially, I read the author’s writings.  Eventually, I half read, half scanned sites intent on leaving an enticing, tasty morsel in the comment section.  Lure these unsuspecting souls back to Penniless Tim where they could read stories of hamsters or mail carriers gone wild.  Membership became required on a facebook group encouraging WordPress posts – email updates around the clock.  I began sneaking onto the computer, glancing at statistics, visualizing throngs reading my writings.  My wife would catch me on the computer and inquire, “What are you looking at?”

“Just looking up old girlfriend’s on facebook and watching a Victoria’s Secrets ad!”, replied I in a lie.

Finally, the hard work payed off as a January 7 post went viral.  35 out of 1,966,514,816 internet users (give or take a user) viewed Penniless Tim – .00000000000508% of the market cornered.  Addiction intensified!  Nicotine, alcohol, nor crystal meth could alleviate the bar chart view craving.  My mind raced into absurd thoughts, “Thirty-five views today, thirty-five million views tomorrow!”

Day after day, hour after hour, I babysat the bar chart as chores were ignored, diapers unchanged, and dinners left untouched.  I screamed at the screen, “Grow bar chart!  Grow @%&# you!  Subscribe, subscribe!  Like my site!  Like me!  Comment, I dare you!”

The evil scientific writer within plotted insidious plans intent on bar chart growth.  Visiting the local library, I navigated to Penniless Tim (one more bar on the chart) and left my site as a favorite on the browser.  Then I posted a story no one can resist – dessert.  The post snared 15 viewers the first day, narrowly missing the 35 million target.  “Bah, ha, ha,” I gleefully chortled, “another 34,999,965 views and victory shall be mine! ”

Day two hooked five viewers followed by a single day three viewer. On day four, I emailed my wife and twenty close relatives with a flashing neon Penniless Tim hyperlink subject line and a message body promising peace in the middle east, a cure for poverty, an end to suffering, and an honest politician if they only visit Penniless Tim.  Would my blog seduction work?  Two views on day four –  a pubescent teenage boy searching for Girls Gone Wild (probably just a bit disappointed) and a nine year old boy seeking hamster training tips.  Was the honest politician promise too far fetched?  Were my emails blocked by a spam filter?  No!  My mother, father, wife, brothers, sisters, simply ignored the blinking bold font hyperlink.  Infuriated, I boldly confronted my wife with a scowl, controlled my passion, and muttered, “Hey Tiger, did you get the email about my latest Penniless Tim link?”

“Oh yeah, I got it,” she calmly replied, ” but I didn’t read it.  You’ve told me all those stories a thousand times.  I’m sure its nice, though.”

The truth dug in its steely claws – the New York Times won’t be calling and the book deal is dead.  My wife won’t even read the blog!  Sadness flooded down as a wave of cold sweat permeated my body, yet I felt a strange sense of relief.  Realities gravity pulled me in from the blogsphere orbit and the pressure of thousand word posts was lifted from computer hunched shoulders.  Realistic goals such as winning the lottery or the kindergarten newsletter mystery writer replaced blogging utopia.  WordPress Posts had become leg lifts with Staff Sergeant Norbeck1, United States Marine Corps, shouting taunts, “Scott, some of us just don’t belong here. Do we?”

Staff Sergeant Norbeck1, United States Marine Corps, was correct.  Blogging should be therapy, not work.  Suddenly, subtle hints previously conveniently ignored became crystal clear.  “I can’t spell penniless or why do you want people to think your poor or it sounds like you were in an accident and became a girl (you will have to think about that one)” burst forth from darkness into the light.  Then Penniless Tim thought of something he hadn’t before!  “Maybe blogging,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a view.  Maybe blogging…perhaps…means a little bit more!  And what happened then…?”2

I am writing for my own enjoyment!  My blog shall be selfish, self serving, and serve its original purpose – an outlet for me.  No longer shall I even contemplate what others think.  If I want to post yesterday’s honey do list or today’s to do list (I repeat myself), I’ll make a post, skip spell check, and ignore punctuation.  If a neighbor kicks my dog, I’ll write a post about it – there’s a 99.9999999999492% he’ll never even see it.  The dashboard is blacklisted and never again will Penniless Tim email announcements flood the Ethernet cloud.  I’m not moderating comments, likes, or subscriptions – write anything you want, subscribe, describe, prescribe, and it’ll post without emails flooding my inbox (well, maybe a light sprinkle was possible).  If I find a great video or picture, it may be post without any description, text, or title because its visually pleasing to me, myself, and I.  And speaking of a novel idea, I may actually write stories on paper with a pencil – call me a radical innovator.

Now one more thing – could there be a worse name than Penniless Tim?  I can’t spell the darn thing and who wants to be poor.  Society struggles spelling I without a spell checker – how can they handle pennilesstim?  I’m creating a new WordPress persona and cashing Penniless Tim in.,,, and all came into mind, but I need easy.  After hours and hours of not contemplating about it, I’m moving to  And to all of the 1,966,514,781 people missing my blog, I’m just fine with it.

Wow, I already feel better!

1 Staff Sergeant Norbeck, United States Marine Corps, was my drill instructor for 18 weeks. We could only address him using his full title. I’m afraid if I do not address him properly, he will hunt me down and force me to do hop ‘n’ pops.
2 Plagiarized a line from Dr. Seuss How The Grinch Stole Christmas


January 16, 2011

Best Dessert Ever

Filed under: Dessert,Humor,Recipe — Tim @ 11:37 pm

I like good food! Even better, I like cheap good food.  Best of all, I like cheap good food made at home. Pay no heed to my dearth of cooking talent, you can call me the frugal gourmet even if I can’t tell my anise from your anise.  I have similar food and music talents – can’t tell you why it’s great, just know it is.  Layla by Eric Clapton – great!  Oatmeal Carmelitas from Pillsbury Publications – great!

Is the Carmelita the best tasting dessert ever concocted?  Probably not, but based upon creation effort compared with the end result, it is simply awesome.  Unlike some other recipes, I can actually find all the ingredients without having to ask the produce manager, “Excuse me sir, but where are the savory dry spices from the Horn of Africa, tumeric fingers, and ground Sumatran Rhino horn?”

Found on the internet, it must be true.

A Sumatran Rhino

How good are Carmelitas?  My son was failing third grade when I suggested bringing the teacher some Carmelitas – they gave him six college credits and advanced him into seventh grade.  I stopped at an intersection with a disheveled homeless man holding a sign reading ‘Why lie – I need a Carmelita recipe’.  The neighbors threw a brick through my window when I refused to share the recipe.   I brought my boss a fresh batch and he let me leave work fifteen minutes early on Christmas Day.

You may be asking yourself, “Self, how much do these amazing Carmelitas cost?”

Being frugal, I wanted to know the exact price per nibble myself.  Unfortunately, we had a slight calculator malfunction and my 10 semesters of collegiate calculus didn’t include any teaspoon conversions (I liked some of the classes so much, I took them twice).

How's this work?

Now you are probably asking yourself, “Yourself, how did Tim ever invent such a wonderful recipe if he has his head up his anice?”

The answer is quite simple – I didn’t.  A few years ago while wandering a bookstore, I ran across the best recipe book I’ve ever purchased – 1 Pillsbury: Best of the Bake-Off Cookbook.  They were practically giving it away – purchase one small tall grande low fat skim milk sugar free lactose intolerant latte and receive a free recipe book.  $17 later and the book was mine for free.  I’m not going to say it’s a great book, but it’s a great book!

Now onto the recipe (straight from the book1):



Oatmeal Carmelitas


2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups margarine or butter, softened


1 (12.5-oz.) jar (1 cup) caramel ice cream topping

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 (6-oz) pkg. (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 13×9-inch pan.  In large bowl, blend all crust ingredients at low speed until crumbly.  Press half of crumb mixture, about 3 cups, in bottom of greased pan.  Reserve remaining crumb mixture for topping.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine caramel topping and 3 tablespoons flour.  Remove partially baked crust from oven; spring with chocolate chips and nuts.  Drizzle evenly with caramel-mixture; spring with reserved crumb mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F for an additional 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.  Co0l completely.  Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours until filling is set.  Cut into bars.

High Altitude–Above 3,500 feet: No change.

Nutrition Per Serving: Calories 200; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 26g; Fat 9g; Sodium 160mg.

When preparing, I have only two crumbs of advice – use real butter and top notch caramel (such as Smuckers).  Enjoy!

1 Pillsbury Publications, Pillsbury: Best of the Bake-Off Cookbook (New York: Clarkson Potter, 1996), 182.

January 11, 2011

The Casual One

Filed under: College,Humor — Tim @ 2:53 pm
Postal Worker Series – Part I
I was designated a United States Postal Service Casual with the official job description “a part-time mail carrier substituting for full-time mail carriers on either vacation or on convalescence leave recovering from severe dog bites and/or extreme bouts of anger.” The official reason regarding the Casual designation is still unknown, but I believe it’s related to either the casual starting time of 9:30 AM (give or take an hour) or a self descriptive position for part-time employee’s work ethics (although many full-time employees shared the same passion).  Not being full-time, a Casual is denied permission to don the mailman’s snappy and stylish attire, but rather must wear ‘civvies’ meeting stringent guidelines – no holes and a collared shirt.  Coincidentally, the civilian attire conveniently eliminated any uniform stipend paid to the Casual.
A Casual’s job is to simply deliver the mail. The actual mail bundle sorting and organizing is performed by superbly trained, nattily attired, and highly motivated full-time mail carriers (or by whoever shows up on time); hence, the Casual’s work day begins anywhere from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM dependent upon a mail carrier organizing both his own route and the vacationing/convalescing mail carrier’s route. Befitting my level of work experience and superior academic learning, the postal service bestowed a princely wage of $5.00 per hour – the envy of Wall Street.  I eagerly awaited the casual Casual experience!

Mail Carriers Gone Wild

Filed under: College,Humor — Tim @ 2:35 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ve always vowed to write about my post office summer job (back when the next ice age was the big worry).  Since I’m now Georgia snow bound, its a good time to start.  It is a true story with a little fictitious filler – feel free to guess what is fictitious.  Now on with the story (and I still need to finish my last blog posting – what with all those snowball fights and sledding runs, those darn kids keep getting in the way)!

Christmas Lights

Georgia Snowbound

Iowa summers!  Other than Nebraska winters, can you think of a better vacation locale?  High humidity, soy beans, two big rivers, three little rivers, four lakes, five ponds, corn fields, corn husks, corn mazes, corn fed girls, bovine parasites, and unemployed college students aplenty watching corn grow.  In the summer of ’86,  I was the latter and not particularly excited by the prior when good fortune struck faster than corn in a hot air popper – the United States Postal Service Sioux City branch opted to employ my services for the summer.  Management was impressed with my hardy resume credentials:  a hardly earned 2.8 Iowa State University GPA; personal references consisting of Mom, Dad, Uncle Lyle, and a second cousin once removed who was a personal friend of the Post Master General’s first cousin once removed; an unblemished work history – Bishop’s Cafe dishwasher (promoted from pot washer after six sudsy, sweaty months); corn detasseler / bean walker (don’t ask and don’t tell); snow shoveler; Greyhound racing dog walker; study hall monitor; mower of lawns.  The Post Office’s summer hires were an eclectic group with virtually nothing in common except the ironic coincidence each had a family member employed at the Post Office.

NOTE: For some reason, my post office days always made me think of this old sketch.  I would call this video PG-13 (it is innocent – less innocent are what people are thinking).

Post Series Part II

December 18, 2010

Writer’s Womb

Filed under: Birth,Children,Humor — Tim @ 12:05 am

I wrote the following letter about three weeks before the birth of our first child and sent it to both sets of soon to be grandparents (for the umpteenth time).  Gavin was born on 9/10/2000.


Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

Since I had a moment to spare, I decided to squeeze out a quick letter (before Mommy squeezes me out–ouch).  You wouldn’t believe the favors I had to promise just to get a crayon and paper.  And do you know how difficult it is to write when you’re balanced on your head and your feet are tucked behind your ears?  Try it!  Crossing t’s and dotting i’s just won’t seem very important, so excuse me if I dangle a few modifiers.  I also want you to know that you should consider yourself mighty special, because I don’t write for just any Uncle Tom or Aunt Amy.  Now if Mommy would just get a little closer to the lamp and Daddy moved his hand off my butt, I could see something and knock this letter out.

I’m really excited to see you soon, but I just can’t decide on a date.  The quarters here might be a little tight (thank goodness I didn’t take in a womb mate), but the room service is excellent and you can’t beat the rent.  For entertainment, I just push on Mommy’s bladder and watch her run (it’s really fun to do it right in the middle of a movie).  I also get quite tickled when I stick my rear end out as far as it will go and Mommy and Daddy think it’s my head (I’ll be worried if they get it mixed up next month).  I tried to get cable TV, but they aren’t servicing my area yet (I’m probably too mature for MTV anyway).  I could almost stay in here forever, but a good hug from my grandparents is just too tempting (and I expect, no demand, many, many hugs and kisses).

I may also have to get out of here pretty quickly because I’m worried about Daddy. He puts his hand on Mommy’s belly and all I have to do is kick.  He gets so excited you’d think he won the lottery.   I’m tempted to hum a little ditty from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, but he’d probably wet his diaper (adults wear diapers–don’t they?).  I really think Daddy needs to get a life.

Before I come out, I want to make one more point.  All everyone talks about is how much Mommy and Daddy’s life is going to change when I arrive.  Well what about me?  Do you know how much my life is going to change?  No more breakfast in bed.  No more climate-controlled house to myself.  They probably won’t let me eat chocolate for years.  And no doubt I shall have to entertain my parents.  A little smile here, a little coo there.  Oh, the pressure!  And you think Mom’s have it rough during delivery.  The next time you walk by the kitchen drain, try to stick your head through it.  Now you know what I have to look forward to.  You better have a big hug ready for me, because I’m going to need it.

Well I better get to bed.  I was a little rambunctious yesterday and didn’t get enough sleep–only 23 1/2 hours.  I can hardly wait to see you soon, Grandma and Grandpa.  My Daddy says I will be the smartest and most beautiful baby every because I’m descended from good genes (do you wear Levis?).  I love you more than all the baby food in the world.

Love, From your biggest fan,
Baby S #1

P.S. – I’ve been sending subliminal messages to my Mom, but I doubt if they’ll name me “The Calico Kid.”

My oldest boy


December 10, 2010

Christmas 2010

Filed under: Christmas,Humor — Tim @ 12:45 am

Dear Family, Friends, Friends of Family, Family of Friends, and Friendly Familiar Faces,

I hope everyone is doing well in these difficult economic times as we all pray for upcoming prosperity.  It was a good year for the Scott family except for the untimely demise of Blackie and White, our much beloved (and ignored) pet hamsters.  Who knew the little fellas couldn’t fend for themselves during our vacation? As with almost everyone, the recession forced us to tighten our belts and use a little fiscal creativity implementing the following money saving ideas:  ignore weeds and pull when roots are established and deep – free yard aeration and no ugly lawn of the month sign in the front yard;  send children to neighbor’s houses at dinner time – free kid meals and fewer dishes;  purchase rickshaw for grocery store visits  – decrease gas costs and lessen child obesity;  purchase taxidermy kit and convert Blackie and Whitey into stocking stuffers – one less Christmas expense and no clogged toilet;  the child tax credit – kids are practically making money for us!

Michelle continues to lead the house in number of fairy tales read, lunches fed, band-aids applied,  snacks supplied,  dinners served, tantrums observed, beds made, bills paid, diapers changed, rooms rearranged, polished brass, kicking ..  stuff (confession after that profession), toilets cleaned, friends screened, cocoa mugs, baby hugs, doctor’s patients and praying for patience.  She even squeezed in a design project for a new company, Lickity Spit,  selling stylized envelope sealers; however,  Michelle didn’t really expectorate much income (hard pun to swallow).

Tim’s status (married, employed, father, Caucasian) remained status quo,  but he did experience a mid life crisis or two.  Initially, he quit his job on a Friday and became a downtown Atlanta street performer earning tips through interpretive dance of computer code (a.k.a. a square dance).   After returning home owing $50, he resumed his job on Monday (fortuitously, he accidentally emailed his parents the resignation letter; unfortunately, he’s out of the family will) .  Tim also began  growing taller while becoming thinner (family height supremacy within his tip toe reach) ; tragically, a Google search  identified pant sizes being in waist/inseam order and not the other way around (from Wilt the Stilt to Percy the Penguin).

Gavin is our blond headed boy with a gold heart and untied shoes.  An avid reader, we have to get his nose out of the books (a good problem to have).  Gavin loves all the holidays (contemplating an Easter Bunny tattoo) and produced empirical evidence Santa exists saying, “Mom and Dad are way too cheap to buy all those gifts.”

Luke John (you can call him Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John for short) loves baseball, Leonardo Da Vinci,  and anything mechanical.  Not your typical eight year old’s hero,  Da Vinci’s mechanical drawings fascinate Luke.  Drawing renaissance inspiration, he built an Ornithopter Flying Machine out of legos, attached a giant crossbow, and flew it to his baseball game where he pitched an inning of hit-less baseball, allowing only 5 runs (4 errors, 3 walks, 2 hit batsmen, and 1 arrow pierced coach).

Laurel is our daredevil in a dress, already achieving a full frontal flip (right over her bicycle’s front handlebars).  At Disney World, she shamed the boys into riding the roller coaster.  Speed is her best friend and a bicycle helmet is Mom’s best friend.  Laurel is also a soccer dynamo, but she may give up the sport – they won’t let her wear a dress and the uniforms aren’t pink.

Visualize a three year old drinking six cups of coffee, chewing gum, singing Queen’s We Will Rock You, and commanding your complete undivided attention – you now know Sophia from the moment she wakes up (6 AM)  until the second she crashes at night.  We thought staying overnight in a cemetery alone was scary, but nothing is more terrifying than Sophia upstairs by herself.  She is sugar and spice – either causing trouble or making the entire family laugh as she hugs everyone.  Sophia is Sophia!

Amelia has now supplanted Laurel as Lulu’s best friend.   Amazing what rewarding begging with a few table scraps can do (Lulu may have been a politician in a previous life).  Turning two in March, Amelia is everyone’s baby girl and she knows it (even demands it).  She loves hugs and hates being ignored.  Love me, hug me, and kiss me or I’ll kick you in the shin is her Modus operandi.  Just in case you didn’t know, Lulu is our pet dog, not our sixth child.

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” – Matthew 1:23.  God is with us – then, now, and forever more.

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!

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