What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Nobody could understand the gibberish Bill stuttered, stumbled and sputtered through as he began his presentation on Catholic influences in France. Bill held his handwritten notes close to his body, as if gathering warmth from between the sheets. His eyes glanced furtively around the room, willing approval from a student body that was more nervous than attentive. Those that were scheduled to follow Bill's group were not paying attention, those who had already delivered were thinking of more pleasant things, like root canals.

Several days' growth of peach fuzz glistened with nervous sweat but, other than an unsteady hand, tentative voice and visibly shaking knee, Bill exuded no signs of nervousness. He was as put together as you would expect a college freshman discussing an arcane subject in a foreign language to be.

Bill sported his thin body in a way that was far from cool. A Led Zeppelin shirt or tight jeans would at least have rendered his frailty an air of purpose. As it was, it looked as if he'd forgotten to eat breakfast for the last two years. Or maybe he was a crack fiend on slim fast, we'll never know for certain. Bill's delivery was as anemic as his appearance. Words were missing where they belonged and inserted where they made no sense. Bill distracted us from his incomprehensibility by shifting his weight back and forth, like a human pendulum counting down the seconds until he could sit down.

When Bill's portion of the presentation was complete and the last grains of sand filtered through the professor's mental hourglass, he moved his thin figure to the back of the room, folded his pencil arms across his chest and began swaying back and forth. I tried to determine what song was going through his mind to inspire such dour movement and hoped against hope that it wasn't anything on my playlist, when Annie (yes, that Annie) productively cleared her throat and began to speak.

Annie's contribution to the presentation was as intense as it was confusing. Her normally zoned out features acquired new life in front of the language class and she waived her arms about with the dexterity of a Jazzercise employee. Unlike Bill, Annie managed to not look nervous. She seemed oblivious to the subdued laughter shared by the derelicts in the back row and, from my point of view, managed to get through all five minutes of material without making eye contact with anyone.

I wish I could remember what aspect of French Catholicism Annie spoke about, but I confess that I was too busy writing the above paragraph to catch much.

Annie's gruesome exercise in presentation aerobics came to a welcome ending as she joined Bill in the back of the room, folded her arms and began swaying in tandem with her teammate. Bill leaned in to give Annie a thumbs up, but things got awkward when Dré, who was speaking next, tried to turn around to see what the audience was staring at. Bill made an attempt at explaining his encouragement in French, but couldn't remember the word for "thumb." Dré's puzzlement was intensified by Annie's attempt at assistance when she wrongly introduced the word for "big toe." Bill thought the students were laughing at him (and maybe they were), so he stopped swaying and his face turned crimson. I don't think Annie ever got the joke, because she stood stock still with a blank look on her face, pointing a limp finger at a vertical thumb.

Dré soldiered on, introducing a religious interpretation that I found as offensive as it was inaccurate. Sensing his error, Dré tried to dig his way out, but only deepened the rut. The result was a tragic retelling of French history that lost even the advanced students. The professor made a eye contact with me and smiled. I felt better.

When it was over, the students broke out into one of the most enthusiastic golf claps since Geoff Ogilvy halted Tiger Wood's win streak. We were genuinely happy for the presenters as they smiled grins of relief and retook their places as far away from the whiteboard as possible. The professor marched to the front of class, said something unnecessarily gracious about the drivel we had just endured and introduced the next presentation...


Anonymous said...

I can only imagine what the other students wrote about your presentation...

Sivakumar said...

Nice Notes..:)

Remembering My School Days. :)


Christopher Yerziklewski said...

How many times have I seen that before...?

blackhawk said...