Wednesday, 18 September 2013

WordPress Daily Prompt: Naked with Black Socks

Are you comfortable in front of people, or does the idea of public speaking make you want to hide in the bathroom? Why? 

Photographers, artists, poets: show us PUBLIC.


The action photo must be about ten years old, if not more. I have done it all in my up-to-now lifetime, except the bit being naked with black socks. Of course I have black socks, wear them in Winter when my feet start to freeze, but naked? Who would want to see a golden oldie dressed in her birthday suit. I even look away myself today.

I was never asked are you comfortable when having to do a public thing, I was just confronted with it and did it. Actually funny thing about being naked, just imagine the others being naked, and then no problem. You are always in advantage.

I worked in an international company, and being gifted with an english mother tongue (actually cockney, but I managed to hide that when necessary) I was now and again called upon to greet english speaking visitors, show them around and generally make sure they were happy. There were visitors from India, the middle east, the states, Australia and countries that did not have an english mother language, but you just got on with it. I sometimes wonder if the Chinese understood me as well as I understood them when we
spoke English.

The photo is one of my bigger jobs. It was our annual Christmas feast, we had English speaking people as guests. I knew them quite well, so that was no problem. Our big boss gave his usual speech in German telling everyone what we achieved throughout the year and ending with Happy Christmas everyone. That was OK, but our English guests knew perhaps three or four words of German. Someone was needed to do a simultaneous translation so that they were in the picture. It was passed onto my boss, who spoke good English, but he decided it would be better if I did it. I did not even know how the machine worked. “No problem” was the answer. Just speak into the microphone and wear the headphones. I then dared to ask if there were notes attached to the big boss speech so that I could perhaps prepare myself in advance. “What notes?” I was in at the deep end, fully clothed of course.

So I was given a nice comfortable table at the back of the hall in front of  about 4-500 people, including my two English speaking victims and then it started. The most nervous moment was doing a sound check to see if they actually heard me over their headphones. I felt like one of those anonymous people that do it all when Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin meet. Was I nervous, I was shaking and when I did the sound check to ask if I was being heard, they said “No”. They must have seen my shock ridden face, they started laughing, it was just a joke, but I did not actually see the funny side of it. Then it was all stations go. I did this simultaneous thing for about half an hour, but it seemed to me it lasted more than an hour. I survived, everyone congratulated me, but I decided never again. That was not fun.

Otherwise I once gave English lessons in the local evening school. That was more for the money than the fun. I did not mind doing it, but you realise how much teacher training would be necessary. I had a mixture of housewives, business men and those just there for the fun of it in my class. It is more a matter of psychology than being exposed. I was asked questions about the English language, I did not even know existed. Eventually I gave up, my bump was getting bigger. At the time I was expecting son No. 1.

At school I was also one of those always picked on to read out loud at the general assembly or in class. That was probably because my voice volume is not restricted to the lower decibel limits. I think we use to shout at each other at home. Dad did not hear so well, through his war experiences on the heavy artillery, and my mum and her sisters all had loud voices, I think that was more the survival of the fittest loudest when my mum was younger.

My public speaking today is now restricted to shopping in the supermarket, talking to the neighbours or making myself heard at home, organising everyone. I did once do sort of an introduction at the 60th birthday of Mr. Swiss and his colleague who reached the same age. It was in the local jazz club. There was a jam session where the various musicians played together, including Mr. Swiss and his colleague, and I just did some “hello everyone etc. etc.This was using a microphone, again in German. My first experience with a mike, those poor people, but they seemed to understand me and even laughed at my weak jokes, although I was not sure if it was the jokes or a English lady speaking Swiss German with a strange accent. 

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  1. Pat, I enjoyed reading this blog entry and also had the fear of speaking. I was shy to enter discussions in classes because I didn't feel confident. I was always self conscious of my voice.It's a soft voice and sometimes I let it work to my advantage when marketing people or pollsters call home. They'll ask if my parents are available and I'll lie that they're not home or unavailable to talk.
    I remember taking a speech class in my freshman year in college. I had to man up and deliver. My career lead me to speak comfortably on the phone and when it came to speaking with uncertainty, the persons on the other end were challenging.
    I was promoted to management and had to present new procedures in our departments. I discovered that it wasn't as difficult. Since I've retired I became a substitute teacher. I find it easy to stand in front of a class and teach.

  2. Interesting Robert. I discovered that teaching is not really my thing, although at work I cold easily explain the work process to visitors.

  3. When i was young I was painfully shy and I found it difficult to even speak to someone who I didn't know, let alone public speaking...that was just not even possible. Over the years I have improved a lot, mainly by forcing myself into things that didn't come naturally to me. I became a mentor in my job, helping train people who were new to the job. This helped a lot.