There was a great “30 Rock” episode a few years ago in which Tina Fey’s boss Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) is getting ready to speak to a group of his “110% Business” buddies. He clips on a microphone and then goes in to the washroom where he proceeds to give himself a little pre-speech warm up, talking to himself out loud and saying things like “You’re a winner, you’re number one, everyone else is a loser…” and that sort of thing.
Well of course Tina Fey is in the audience and realizes that Jack has forgotten that his microphone is on and everyone in the audience is listening. It’s pretty damn funny; especially knowing that no one could be that stupid, right?
A few weeks ago I did the keynote speech at the Queen’s Commerce and Engineering Environmental Conference and I realized as soon as I arrived that all of the students were way better dressed than I was. In fact, in comparison to the fashionable young adults in the audience, I kind of felt like a homeless guy who had just walked in on a social function. I had purchased my shirt, which is a number of years old, at Giant Tiger, a discount chain store in this part of Ontario. No it wasn’t made in Canada, it was made in Bangladesh and probably cost me about $7. My pants were definitely from Value Village (a secondhand store) and my tie was one that I had grabbed from a box of my dad’s 1950’s era ties. My own collection of ties is from the days in the 70’s and 80’s (which is the last time I regularly wore suits) are so they are all really dated. I figured that if I wore a tie from the 1950s I should just about be in style, since fashion has a habit of repeating itself. It’s like how Colin Firth in the movie “A Single Man” which is set in the 1960s looks like a hugely stylish hipster from today.
My shoes would make a vegan happy, since they are made of completely 100% man-made materials. I can’t even remember where I got them but they are probably secondhand as well.
So about 10 minutes before my talk I went in to the washroom and was trying to retie my tie since I’m pretty rusty at it. I was staring at myself in the mirror, realizing just how “recycled” I looked and in my mind I said “Well, that’s as good as it’s gonna get.” I then realized that I hadn’t in fact used my “inside my head voice” but rather I had used my real voice … you know, the one anyone around you can hear. At that point a toilet flushed and I realized that there was in fact another person in the washroom with me who had probably heard me talking to myself. At that point I quickly vacated the washroom before I could be identified as the crazy keynote speaker who talks to himself. If muttering out loud to yourself isn’t the first sign of impending homelessness I don’t know what is.
The good thing was that as I walked briskly away from the washroom I couldn’t help but laugh really hard. There’s no better way to get loosened up before a talk than by making a fool of yourself.
Earlier in the week I had done my “All You Can Eat Gardening Workshop” for the Tweed Horticultural Society. Normally this is a two-hour presentation but I had agreed to pare it down to one hour for them. For most speakers this would mean removing half of their PowerPoint slides but for me it just means talking faster than I already do. I like to use a lot of humour in my presentations, most of it self-deprecating (I show a photo of me chasing cabbage moths with my badminton racket – that kind of low brow stuff) so the audience members are usually in the mood to laugh. As Michelle pointed out to me later that night, I got the best laugh unintentionally as I quickly described square foot gardening. I was trying to quickly cover the basics of square-foot gardening and when I tried to describe how to measure I had said “And you measure off the foots.” A couple of ladies in the back row were in hysterics. I’m funny even when I’m not trying.
My classic “cidiot comes to the country” story took place shortly after we moved in. We were having problems with raccoons getting in to everything from the garden to the woodshed. These raccoons were big and they showed no sign of fear for us. We bought a “Havahart” live trap and I began live trapping them. Then I’d put them into the back of the truck and drive down the road away from any other dwellings and let them go.
Usually I checked the traps in the morning but one night I happened to check it before bed and discovered that I had caught a really big, ornery raccoon. I didn’t think it was fair to leave it trapped in the cage until the morning so I decided to move it right away. I put a blanket over the cage to try and calm it down but it hardly helped. The raccoon was thrashing and bellowing and lunging at me like no raccoon I’d ever seen. I did manage to get it in to the back of the truck but it weighed a ton. By this time the trap was getting pretty beat up because raccoons just don’t sit quietly waiting to be released. Each of the previous trapped raccoons had put a great deal of effort into dismantling the trap from the inside.
Part way down the road I ran into our neighbors Ken and Alyce who were out for a walk. Alyce was on a horse and their rottweiler was barking and getting the horse riled up and of course it was pretty dark outside. When I stopped to say hello Ken asked what I was up to and I explained that I was “relocating a raccoon” to the 4th Depot Lake road. Ken asked if he could take a peek at it.
I warned Ken that this particular raccoon was pretty big and really ornery but he insisted that he wanted to take a look at it. So I hesitantly climbed into the back of the truck with a flashlight, and carefully removed the blanket and tried to avoid getting my hand ripped off. Maybe you can guess where this is going. Rocky Raccoon had escaped and my new neighbors were witnessing their cidiot neighbor driving an empty raccoon cage down to the 4th Depot Lake road. I said, “It was there when I left home, honestly!” Ken’s response was “Yes Cam, I’m sure it was.”
I cannot tell you the number of times that Ken has introduced me to people and then happily shared that story with them.
And I have to admit; I still laugh at that one myself. And with that I’ll sign off. It’s time to take my empty raccoon trap out for a drive.
Photo of trap: www.havahart.com
Photo of raccoon: Art Explosion by Nova Corp.