He wore stark white golf socks under Jesus sandals, khaki shorts and a white undershirt, over which a blue Hawaiian shirt hung, severely mis-buttoned so each end of it landed at awkward angles on his shorts. And to top off the ensemble, a beige flannel shirt with sleeves rolled haphazardly. And this was a golfer? Who lived in one of the 1400 identical stucco houses? Was that his golf outfit? As the man shuffled forward to take the mike and ask his question, I thought all of these things as well as why was I there at six P.M. on a Thursday night, an hour-and-a-half from home, sitting with architects and a building committee in front of three hundred people in a vast banquet hall between the interstate and nowhere, looking at this guy who needed help dressing.
“The pond in my backyard overflows every year,” he said . “And what are we going to do about these ponds?”
Oh, and he’s also at the wrong meeting, I thought. For I was here as a guest speaker for the building committee as part of their quest to convince the membership that spending 1.9 million dollars to remodel the clubhouse deemed their ‘yes’ vote. I was here to speak about why their current and inefficient kitchen should grow to 3500 square feet to efficiently service both dining rooms, the bar, pool and banquet room and to explain the kitchen design process. But this guy was asking about ponds. And my heart was lodged somewhere in my throat.
My boss had said to me, “You have to go, I’ll be out of town. Damn! I wish I could be there, I love this kind of stuff.”
I love this stuff for him too, when he does it ––speaks to the public ––while I watch. Mr. Flamboyant, Mr. Ego, Mr. Gold Bling. The audience loves him too.
While I am ––or have been anyway––shy.
But life is about bettering yourself, isn’t it? In the twenty years since I launched from the comfort of the kitchen, where few cared what I had to say, into the world of opinions and monsters, I have improved my social and business skills greatly. I remember practicing in front of a mirror what I would say at a small design presentation in a club boardroom, pacing, reading from a script, then going ad-lib, commanding my nervous stutter to fuck-off, my heart racing faster, my throat tightening the closer I got to the room in which I would present. And I have since mastered the boardroom. It’s a piece of cake now. In fact I‘m really cool at it, charming even and yes, I know I’m good looking. Ego helps, you see.
But a podium and a microphone? Six hundred eyes? (assuming they all have two of them, except for maybe the guy dressed wrong). Um. Ok.
The architect and interior designer speak. They have props-power point, pictures, I have only my brain. Then the money guy goes and we all glaze over. I have time to think. I feel anything I have to say after ten minutes of figures about reserves and interest rates will be a relief to all, yes!
And I go up to the podium and corral their brains back to the pictures of a club the designer had shown before the money guy drolled, for I had designed that kitchen six years ago. “I wish Sarah had ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of that kitchen at Heritage Oaks,” I begin. And stuff comes out of my mouth, no one falls asleep as far as I can see anyway, and when I’m done, I’m the first one of the presentation to get applause.
So maybe I should add this to my bucket list: for the day to come when my boss and I fight over whose going speak in front of the eyes because I can say, “Oh, a podium and a microphone, I love that kind of stuff.”