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The Speaker

The Speaker
I’m terrible at talking to people. Well, actually no. That wouldn’t be truthful. I just hate being around people. Well, not exactly. It’s that well, sitting or standing in a room with more than one person for me is a challenge. Being in a space with two people is a scary proposition for me. I’m a bit of a hermit. Not totally. It’s hard to explain. But I’ll try.   Standing still behind a podium is just not my style. I’ve been forced to do that podium speaking thing a number of times in my life.

Speaking behind a podium for me… Well… It’s kind of sort of a disaster. However, if you’ll bear with me, give me a microphone, and keep your distance. Not that I’m a germaphobe. But I’m in the closet about it. It? Oh, my germaphobia. The distance, the microphone. Space? Yes, I need space. But, yet I have been known to walk into an audience when permitted during a speech and cajole the people in the audience.

How did I get into becoming a speaker? I did take some courses between high school and college. Yet, that was that podium thing. I liked it slightly. Then I thought, ‘When would I ever need to do this?’ I thought, ‘Never.’ I was wrong.

You see, the way it all happened was in April of 1992. Oh, I do remember the day. I remember where I was and all. Because that is that spectrum thing-a-mahooey I have going on inside my brain. Don’t worry, it’s a good thing. So, here I was in a running store. It was a cloudy Saturday late morning. The owner introduced me to a sports psychologist, who was becoming practically internationally known. He had been interviewed about the brain way back then on the television news show “20/20”. This store I was in, was once in a while exciting. Not the running shoes, the people that walked in. A few years later Steve Adubato (Public Television talk show host) would walk in on a sunny day in 1995, and I would meet him and his son back then. And what else, we’d discuss running.

Any-who, going back to that day in early April 1992, I met this sports psychologist and we ended up chatting for about forty minutes or more.  He had given me such great advice.

I asked, “So, like you just gave me almost an hour of your time. I can’t afford you. My husband is in school full-time and we’re pinching pennies.”
He remarks, “I’ll tell you what. I think you’d make a great speaker.”
I respond, “Seriously? You’re kidding me. How?”
He replies, “I have classes I teach on psychology. And I need special guest-stars to come and speak once in a while at those classes.”
I inquire, “Why am I being considered?” 
He replies, “You’re a mental toughness expert.”
Looking at the store owner watching this take place, I tilt my head, “Kidding me.”
The owner nods his head in agreement. He pursues, “No I’m not. And I think you’ll make a great speaker.”
Nearly in full blown laughter I remark, “So, you don’t think I’m mental?”
He smiles. The owner shakes his head as he raises a brow.
The doctor responds, “No. It seems like you’ve overcome much, and you are an optimist.”
I reply, “Okay. You know I work during the day. The company I work for needs me to be there regularly. I’m in a small department. I need to make money for my husband and I.  So, what are you proposing?” 
He responds, “How about a night next week? Here’s my phone number. It’s called ‘Success Hotline’. I’ll pick up. We’ll talk about what night is best. I’ll have you come a few minutes before class to my office.”
I look at the store owner. He nods. I shrug, “Yeah. Sure.” The sports psychologist parts.

Soon enough I call the sports psychologist on his ‘Success Hotline’. He picks up.  We arrange to meet at his office five minutes before class starts. It’s now closing in on seven in the evening when I enter the psychologist/professor’s college campus office.

His office appears cluttered and a bit like a little hole in the wall.  I poke my head into his office, “I’m here.” 
He waves me in, “Welcome. Have a seat.”
I sit in a chair directly across from him, sitting behind his desk. Papers abound. Books, things are in a scattered, cluttered array, sort of like an Andy Warhol piece of art. He continues, “I have a question for you.” I nod. He continues. “Is there anything you would not want to talk about?”
I reply, “I have nothing to hide. I guess the answer would be, ‘No’.”
He remarks, “Really?” 
I nod, “Yep.  Everything is fine.”
He comments, “Okay. I’m going to introduce you with a few titles. The first one is “Mental Toughness Expert.”
I ask, “Why?” He looks at me, “Because you are.” I shrug. Not really getting the idea. Yet, I know to just go with this. I’m thinking, ‘I guess he knows what he’s doing.’

Five minutes pass and we enter area where I am to speak. Nearly all the students are in. Their ages range from twenty-two to about sixty-five. All walks of life. I nonchalantly sit in the back of the room. I go unnoticed.  The psychologist/professor is at the front of the room. All eyes are on him as he reviews projects. Then he introduces a man who’s changing his career. He’s becoming a personal trainer. I actually met this guy, John McCann and ran with him a few times. He changed his entire life. I listen to him speak.  He speaks for twenty-five minutes in the two hour class. I say ‘good-bye’ to him as he exits near the back of the room. He smiles.

The psychologist/professor gets up, speaks about John a tad. Some people nod their heads in some agreement after he speaks. Then the psychologist/professor does his introduction of me. Then I’m presented. I stand in front of the class. Their professor takes a seat catty corner to my right. And somehow the speech starts. The professor asked questions with a slight lead in them. And I ran with it, metaphorically of course. I cracked jokes and was self-deprecating. I had them laughing. Stunned. Shocked. Then had them laughing again. Eventually, the end was near. It was time for them to ask questions. I answered all with ease. I was having a blast and it appeared my audience was too. Even the straight-faced professor was at a near giggle from my answers and my antics.

Then the speech ended. People came up to me, smiling, shaking my hand. I wondered, ‘What had I done for my audience? What just happened?’

By the time after nearly everyone had left, three men walked up to me. They were detectives, getting their Masters. One inquired, “How did you get us to laugh at things we never saw humor in?”
Another said, “I can’t believe I laughed at that.” He still had a broad smile on his face.
I remarked, “Because I’m here now. I survived.”
The three of them nodded. Smiled, then left.  
The professor was satisfied. “That was good Jody. I’ll call you later when you get home.” I replied, “Okay.”

About forty minutes later I’d arrived home. Ten minutes later my home phone rang.

I picked up, as to not have my husband be awakened. “Yes.” I answered.
He responded, “It’s Doctor Gilbert. How are you?” 
I replied, “Pretty good.”
He continued, “Jody, that was amazing. You spoke for almost two hours. This was the first time I invited anyone to my class, and no one left the room during a speech. No one got up to go to the bathroom. You should do this for a living.”
I responded, “Serious?”
He inquired, “Did you ever take a speech class?” 
I remarked, “Yeah. I think like three.”
He added, “Well, that usually makes someone a bad speaker.”
I replied, “You’re kidding me.”
Dr. Gilbert responded, “No. Speech classes really mess people up.”---Jody-Lynn Reicher


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