Funny first, serious second:
At work today I was supposed to take the lead on a very sensitive conference call with an unhappy client. We had four of our employees on the phone on our end, one of our salespeople had called in remotely, and the client had three of their people on the phone, including the CEO.
After ten minutes or so things had gone fairly well, and I whispered to the other people in the room, asking if it was time to launch into the sensitive topics. They gave me the green light. I began to speak, and things got very quiet on the other end of the line. I finished the opening statement, and then three very surprising words were practically growled into the phone, and into our ears:
"You fu#(ing idiot!"
All of our eyes almost popped out of our heads. We caught our breath. Finally I said, "Excuse me? Was that you, Spence (the CEO)?"
"No," he said tersely. "That was somebody from your company."
We all looked at each other. What was going on here? We didn't say anything. A few seconds later our salesperson chimed in. "Everybody, I'm so, so sorry. I'm on the cell phone in my car, and somebody just pulled out right in front of me. I only missed them by inches, and I thought my phone was muted. Again, I apologize."
Oooookay. The timing couldn't have been weirder.
After we all recovered, we actually did get to discuss the sensitive issues, and even reach some resolution on them. But the poor sales guy was mortified. The irony of it all is that he takes great care to always be courteous and professional, even more than most of the other sales team members. So it was perfect that he was the guy to make a slip like that.
I bet you can guess how I'll address the next email I send the sales guy. "Hey, f#$%...."
Just say "noo-boo sheshaw" and hem the pickles
A lot of people have been talking about the Miss Teen USA pageant, and the contestant from South Carolina who majorly botched a question about U.S. education:
Most of the feedback has consisted of blonde jokes and bimbo-type snide remarks. I admit, it's possible that she's just extremely ignorant. However, I also read that later in the show she perfectly nailed a question about how lunar eclipses work, so it's possible that she's actually quite intelligent.
Here's my guess. I think she's smart. I think she had a total, public-speaking panic and freakout when the question was asked, and mindlessly rambled with a smorgasbord of words that she had learned through dozens of hours of pageant practice. And she did it all with a calm demeanor, again because she had been trained thoroughly.
If she had been less polished, she would've sounded a lot like a red-headed, skinny 18-year-old high school senior back in 1994. Back then I was asked to visit a few classrooms at my high school and tell them about a new feature that would be running in the school newspaper. No big deal.
I got into the first classroom (all lowly sophomores) and asked the teacher for permission to make a quick announcement. She agreed, and I froze. I couldn't remember why I was there, or what I was supposed to say. Eventually I mumbled something like this:
"You see.... the way it works is.... you come and tell us if you've got something, and then we'll get to work for you. And that's all you got to do. Thank you."
I left the room in a cold sweat and practially collapsed in the hallway. I wasn't stupid, but anyone who had seen that miserable experience would surely have thought otherwise. I know what it feels like to have such a complete mental breakdown in front of a crowd, that simple English becomes a complex task far beyond reach.
I think this happened to Miss South Carolina, and I hope she gets over it. It literally took me years before I could speak in front of a group again without flashing back to that moment in a sophomore classroom.