SANDBAGGED

I was recommended to speak to the local Women’s Club, an influential organization in our community about my novel, “Diary of a Young Musician: Final Days of the Big Band Era.” Since I had spoken to a similar group a few weeks earlier, I assumed I’d speak about one half hour. I received an email of confirmation the same day saying I would speak for 12 minutes with five minutes of Q & A at the end of their luncheon. It takes me that long to take a breath. I thought I’d be able to improvise and stretch the talk a little longer.

When I arrived at the clubhouse, I was informed there would be another speaker before me, causing me a little uneasiness. When the speaker was introduced I was stunned! She was a representative from our local water district who had been asked that day to talk to the group. The previous evening, an overflow crowd of 200 angry residents of our city had attended a riotous meeting of the water board, who were going to raise the rates by possibly up to 300 percent. The board ended up raising the rates that evening by a vote of 3-2. You could see the quandary I was in having to follow that speaker. While giving her talk why the water district raised the rates, she was asked a question by one of the little old ladies who would be seriously affected by the new rates. The air became contentious with more angry questions. The speaker happily left immediately after her allotted 12 minutes.

While she was speaking I adjusted my talk in my mind hoping it would work out…it did not! It was the first time I’d ever addressed an audience with angry faces who could care less about an ex-musician who used to play with big bands. Every story that had brought laughs in the past fell like a lead balloon. There wasn’t a one. I ended my speech in exactly 12 minutes. I thought the meeting was over but I was wrong. The minutes had yet to be read and short talks to be given by about eight other officers. I made a fast exit after thanking the president for inviting me. I don’t think a person in the room heard a single word of my innocuous talk. In the future I’ll make sure I’m the only speaker and that I be given an allotted time of at least one half hour.

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