Thursday, July 14, 2005

Demosthenes Would Be Proud... or Bored

My psychiatrist told me I should check out an organization called Toastmasters, where members becoming confident public speakers by making speech after speech till they're no longer stunned standing in front of about twenty-five people and talking about something insipid. I went to my local Toastmasters club this evening, which is held in an old-folks home in Westfield. They have a dog at that old-folks home, and I petted her, and that was the highlight of the whole Toastmasters meeting. Otherwise, the whole thing sort of reminded me of college: it was hot and sticky and people wouldn't shut up about crap I couldn't possibly care less about.

I was sort of wandering around the old-folks home, looking for the meeting, when I met Charlie, the chairman of Toastmasters of Westfield. He's into speech-making, and when I sit down at an empty table on the side, he sits down next to me and explains the whole ridiculous Toastmasters procedure. Debi is this week's official toastmaster, and she gets to pick a theme for the meeting. This week's theme is "Sun Power, Fun Power" and before each person makes their speech, Debi introduces them by telling us why they like the sun, like we care. I mean, it's mildly cute and puerile the first three or four times, but after two hours of sitting in the heat and sweat, you just want to gag her every time she introduces someone by saying so-and-so "likes vitamin D."

The speeches ranged from the inane and boring to the non-sensical and boring. Seriously, the most interesting speech was some guy named Tom explaining about roller blading safety gear. One guy gave a detailed description of each of his pairs of glasses. A woman talked about her new grill. A man told us why he liked vanilla ice cream, and although he really had nothing to say on the topic, he still managed to yammer on for two minutes. A woman gave a speech that was supposed to be about knowing your audience but digressed into a mess of lame clip art and generally obvious public speaking advice. Charlie gave a speech about the overuse of perfect tenses in public speaking. And I'm trying to sit there, falling into the background, but for some freaking reason every goddamn speech had to start off: "Good evening, fellow Toastmasters... and honored guest..." staring right at me.

If I ever had to make a speech for these lamers, I'd make sure to pick the most boring, most tedious topics I could possibly think of: Pynchon's novels or symbolic logic or the powers and traits of various Pokemon. Just so they'd have some idea of what their club was actually like.

But I'm not going back. At the end of the meeting, Charlie made his closing speech and asked me what I thought of the meeting. "It was fun," I lied. See, that's what knowing your audience is all about.