Downed But Not Defeated

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A little story about a class I had to take that turned disatrous but ending, after all, in victory.

I went to college after my husband died so I can't even blame this one on my klutzy youth. Requirements demanded I take a course I dreaded. Speech Communication 101. Part of the curriculum involved giving three five minute talks in front of the class. I'm horrified when it comes to public speaking. I worked diligently on my first speech and had it perfected. In fact I was sure it would sound like a canned speech, I had it memorized so well.
D-day had arrived. I wanted to look my best, soI chose my outfit carefully. A form fitting, above the knee lavender dress with a matching sheer, flowing jacket was my choice and the white heels finished the look I wanted.

Since I was to be the last speaker that day I decided to sit near the back of the oversized room so I could review my speech without distractions.
The lecture hall where class was held looked similar to a movie theater. The podium was at the front of the room, the floor inclining toward the back. The rows of seats were about 50 across by about 100 long. And they were nearly all occupied. The floor was carpeted. I love carpet.
My tension suddenly increased and then abated slightly as I remembered that I did apply my Right Guard that morning. I was sweating so badly I just knew I would have giant damp circles changing parts of that lavender dress to deep purple. My mouth was so dry I was afraid I'd start spitting cotton balls when I tried to speak. I'd already gone through half a roll of lifesavers.By the time the third speaker got up there my heart was beating so hard I had to look down to see if my shirt was pulsating. Five minutes ‘til life as I knew it was over. Just five minutes before I had to make that long stroll down there to the front of the class.
I began cursing myself for sitting so far in the back of the room. That would just prolong the amount of time everyone would be looking at me. Instead of five minutes, I had increased my time in the spotlight by at least 30 seconds! What an idiot I was. Now my heart was really pounding.I popped another lifesaver thinking maybe the relation between the name of these candies and my desire to be spared this humiliating life-stopping event would somehow make a difference. Then I heard the applause. Oh God! It was my turn.
Somehow I managed to get to my feet, picked up my papers and immediately dropped them to the floor. Red-faced, I scooped them all up and proceeded to head down that long plank at the end of the ship where I was going to die.
Heart pounding... head throbbing. I just knew I was going to throw up or faint any minute.
And then it happened.
I was halfway there when my foot caught the leg of the chair. I might have been able to regain my footing if not for the tight dress I had chosen.Papers flew into the air, scattering everywhere as I fell hard onto my knees. I might have been able to regain my composure if not for the dress I had chosen. That lovely sheer, flowing jacket snagged the arm of a chair and gave me a little jerk. It was just enough to pull me off balance. Down I went. I tried to stop, but the angle of the floor kept me scooting along until I lost all control and rolled and tumbled past 4 or 5 rows before finally coming to a stop. I could hear scattered snickers throughout the room while I prayed this was all just a terrible nightmare.
The whole ugly scene took less than 20 seconds, but to me it seemed like a life time. I glimpsed the shadow of a hand offered by the young man closest to me. Here was my rescue should I choose to accept it. Eyes cast downward, too embarrassed to look up, the room still punctuated by a few giggles scattered about, I reached out and allowed myself to be righted. I could tell everyone in the room was making a great effort to refrain from letting loose with the belly laugh that was the only relief they sought.
I didn't know what to do. I wanted to run. But I knew if I did I would never return and all my days left in college would be spent in humiliation. How could I give a speech now? My dress all messed up, my jacket torn and tattered, my hair disheveled, scraped, bleeding knees. What a sight I must've been!
And then it happened.
A tiny sound that started in the back of my throat getting stronger until it burst from my lips… a giggle. And then another. And another, until I was laughing that belly laugh the entire class wanted to let loose. It shot across the room missing no one as they all joined in. Then came the applause. Somehow that made me feel so good I totally forgot what an idiot I must look like.
It was then that the instructor stepped up to the podium and said, "Miss Rose, if you don't mind crawling up here, you only have three minutes left of your speech". He held his hand out toward me, as the crowd roared.
That day I gave my first and only extemporaneous speech. And you’ve just read it.Even though it was quite a learning experience, I would much rather have saved myself all that embarrassment and given my regular speech. But I'm sure no one in the room that day would have enjoyed it as much as watching my disgrace and the laugh we all got at my expense. Looking back I’m glad I gave them something to remember from their Speech Communications class.
My16 year old granddaughter asked me one day, “Did you like to give reports in front of class when you were in school. Grandma?”
I said, “Well, let me tell you a little story about that……..”

Submitted: June 04, 2011

© Copyright 2022 cougarose. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Ona Whim

Wow! Great recovery. I fell head over heals for this one. Not sure I'd have ever recovered from that one, let alone delivered the speech ad-lib. I'm most impressed.

A good laugh at oneself on occasion is good for the soul. Well written and hilarious (sorry if it wasn't meant to be but...).

Well done!


Tue, June 7th, 2011 11:47pm


I'm glad you liked it, I had fun writing it. It really was one of my most embarrassing moments. I kept wishing I'd worn jeans or sat in the front or all kinds of things. I probably would have done better if I hadn't done all that preparation. I sometimes wonder if anyone in that class relates this tale and even more people get a big laugh out of it. Oddly enough I still haven't learned to walk very well. I once walked right off the edge of a sidewalk. Terminal klutz-itis. Ha! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. I appreciate it.

Thu, June 9th, 2011 4:27am

Brian W

A good tale of a speech and one I would have walked out with head hung low if it happened to me....I never gave a speech at school before I left and still have never talked in front of a crowd....I do not even read my poems out loud to myself or anyone.... I enjoyed the read and I am sure you can walk quite well now....

Thu, August 11th, 2011 4:16am


Thanks so much for coming to read another of my stories Brian. I'm glad you enjoyed it. But I've read your poems and there's no reason at all for you not to read them aloud to anyone. You're pretty darn good. I've read several on here from other authors that I wouldn't read again. But look I've read more than one of yours. I did get tickled when you said you don't even read your poems out loud to yourself. Don't be shy guy... hold your head high and don't worry about what anyone else thinks. I'll be over to read more of your writings. And keep on writing! ~ cougarose.

Thu, August 11th, 2011 9:26pm


brilliant recovery! i also have terrible stage fright and for some reason i keep thinking if i go up there enough times i'll start getting over it. nawwwww. i wish i could have been there. not for your embarrassment, but for the laughs. once again you brought the whole story to life for me. great job!

Mon, August 22nd, 2011 3:42am


This one was a little harder to write for me than the others. I think because I was the "main attraction" and I'd rather put someone else in the spotlight. :) I have a few ideas on more stories, I just haven't penned them yet but I'll let you know when I do. Thanks for coming over and spending some time inside my head. I appreciate your comments.

~ cougarose

Sun, August 21st, 2011 9:24pm


Funny and witty and endearing. You do have the ability to tell a story, right from the get-go, so that there's no telling what's coming next. A pied piper are you. This is a sympathetic tale as well. Done well.
Regards, Connie

Sat, June 2nd, 2012 5:38pm


I had fun telling my story. How embarrassing to fall down in a room full of young adults watching. Nowadays something like this probably would not have quite the impact as I'm sure they'd all have their noses glued to their I phones.

I've never been called a pied piper before. I like it. Thank you very much for your kind words, Connie.

~ cougarose

Sat, June 2nd, 2012 9:04pm

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