These people look really put together.
I back out of the room, check the signage.
It’s the right room. I slowly re-enter and take a set at one end of a long table.
Welcome, my friends, to eight hours of corporate learning, where an innocuously titled course on “Communications” reveals itself, in dizzying, slow-motion horror, to be the stuff of nightmares.
All that was missing was my entering naked and forgetting my locker combination on the Day of the Big Test.
I turn to the woman next to me. “Why am I here?” I whisper.
She grins, and I like her immediately. “Because someone loves you very, very much.”
And we burst into laughter.
It is close to the truth. My boss, a lovely woman who now owes me an adult beverage the size of a day-long lesson in humility, had hoped only to enroll me in a course that would help me resist the urge to send e-mails with the salutation “Dear Inconsiderate Boob”.
In actuality, however, I have been thrust amongst people who speak for a living, the course being designed to teach them how to move across a stage effectively, how to gesture without appearing to have T-Rex arms, how to make eye contact without frightening the audience.
Now why don’t you come to the front of the room – hold on, we’ll be videotaping you several times to go over in your one-on-one coaching sessions – and give us a couple minutes on, oh, let’s see. How about the rodeo?
One would think that I, personally-renowned writer loved by absolutely tens of people, would have quite the stage presence. And you’d be right – as long as I am at a podium and reading.
But this? Suddenly, I cannot tell a story and walk. I have forgotten how to blink, I am rocking on my heels, I am holding my arms out as if to play an invisible piano.
The word “um” comes to my lips and stays.
The room is supportive and generous, the applause genuine.
I have wandered into a room holding a kazoo, and I have been taken in by the violin section.
And I am looking forward to the drink that is surely in my immediate future.