Betty's Excellent Adventures

Archived Adventures

Bad Mike
- One of Betty's Excellent Adventures

A few weeks ago my speaking engagement for 80 men was almost a disaster. The Sons in Retirement (SIRS #58) were meeting at a restaurant popular for its large banquet rooms, and the “Sons” were expecting a dynamite program from me. But it was obvious to the master of ceremonies that the microphone was behaving badly because it occasionally went dead. Even when the mic worked it was difficult to hear the man in charge because the singers in the other room could be heard in the parking lot. I did not like the sound of this and thought, “How are 80 older men going to hear me without a microphone?” I was about to find out.

All of a sudden, the mike started working, and that’s when the guy in charge placed it gently into my hands. I held it like a newborn baby in case a light touch was the secret for success. I opened my program with gusto and we were off to good start for about five minutes…and the mic died again. Much time was wasted by several “helpers” hitting the mike against the heel of their hands or on the table in an effort to resuscitate it. Occasionally, the mike sputtered to life, which gave the men a great deal of hope, though I had none at all. Finally, I explained to those in charge that I would shout my program to the audience, and anyone with hearing aids should relocate to the front row.

I made a big smile and gave those 80 guys two “thumbs up” to wish me good luck. They cheered. I sucked in a lot of breath and started shouting my program. It added a whole new dimension to “Dancing in My Nightgown: The Rhythms of Widowhood,” and yelling and gesturing wildly completely changed the nature of the presentation. It wasn’t better or worse, just very different. Here’s why.

Everything had to be exaggerated; my attitude, movements and voice. And the stories had to be simplified, more succinct, bolder and easy to understand in as few words as possible. I moved back and forth freely across the full width of the audience and articulated clearly and projected broadly like a cheerleader or a traveling evangelical minister from the days of circuit preachers. Once I yelled, “CAN YOU GUYS STILL HEAR ME?”

“YES,” they shouted in unison. “YOU’RE DOIN’ GREAT!”

I knew they weren’t lying because they laughed in the right places and they clapped a lot. The SIRS #58 were getting a huge kick out of my efforts to prove that the show must go on. Luckily for me, the program was only supposed to be 20 minutes long in the first place, and they used up 10 minutes tapping the mike on their hands and on the back of a chair or on someone’s head. They seemed to like trying to get that mike to work, so my twenty minute show was quickly reduced to ten, but it was loud and well received. At the end of ten minutes, I was worn out, but they couldn’t stop clapping. A colleague of mine from my art-teaching days presented me with a bouquet of flowers and yelled to the audience, “BETTY HAS NOT CHANGED. SHE IS STILL UNSINKABLE.” The audience clapped and cheered. How lovely that was.

The SIRS #58 guys did not buy many books, only seven out of 80 men, but I didn’t take it personally because they couldn’t stop thanking me for such a “fine” program. I guess that all things are meant to be. But I promised myself that this mic problem would never happen again, because within the next few days I would purchase my own wireless, portable equipment with a receiver that could plug into any existing system. I could carry it with me in a little bag at all times for future presentations. I looked forward to shopping for it.

Because of hollering my program, I was hoarse for the next five days. But yesterday, I finally got my old voice back just in time for today’s program for 65 women at an annual fundraiser called The Author’s Luncheon. It was an honor to be invited. I would be sharing the podium with two other female authors, both younger than yours truly by at least three decades. The refined event was held at a brand new version of the old La Rinconada Country Club in Los Gatos, a beautifully designed facility tucked above a gracious neighborhood with lush, rolling green hills. Before lunch was served we three authors sipped wine and mingled with about 70 well-dressed, friendly, educated, women. Everything in the dining room was meticulously arranged including live, flowering plants on each table. The luncheon was lovely; gourmet greens with strips of savory chicken served with tiny rolls and for dessert a delightful lemon tart. After used plates were cleared away, the first author was introduced. She warmed up her audience and was well into her presentation when the microphone went dead. Various employees examined the switch, blew into the screen, said testing, testing too many times to count and stood around with wrinkled brows. A fresh mike was brought out but it refused to stay on so the first author tried to speak to 70 women with no amplification. It didn’t help that some women in the back rows felt compelled to yell, “We can’t hear you,” in spite of the obvious technical difficulties. This scenario was repeated with the second author with a second microphone to no avail. The two speakers preceding me at the podium had their work cut out for them, and it hampered their presentations. I was thinking fast about what to do when it was MY turn.

I started planning ahead. I studied where everyone was seated at tables and imagined I was shouting my program for this group. There were some posts in the way and I would shout around them. I’d done it last week and I could do it again. Right before I was announced, a THIRD mic was brought out for ME. When I finally got it into my hands, I was almost afraid to touch it and I said to the audience, “Just one minute folks while I bond with Mike. He is the fourth Mike I’ve met this week, and he may be another bad one. We need to have an understanding.” I turned my back barely to the audience and prepared for a severe warning in case Mike was thinking of acting out like the rest of his family. But first, I did a few meditation ohms for good luck, “Ohmmm, ohmmm,” while touching my fingertips to my eyelids.

“Ok Mike, now stay with me, dya hear? Don’t let me down. This is up to US. We’ve got a program to give. Even though I know I can yell louder than these two young women behind me, I do NOT want to do that. We’re in this together, you and me; understand? You DO? GOOD BOY. I love you Mike.” Then I faced the audience and said, “OK. Mike and I are ready, so let’s get this show on the road.” The women were finally laughing and relieved that they would hear one of the authors without so many interruptions.  That little introduction warmed me up for one of my best deliveries. 

I had psyched myself up for shouting another program today, so I was almost disappointed when they produced a microphone that worked. But as I said earlier in this story, all things are meant to be.

Betty Auchard
January 18, 2006

Betty Auchard presents her memoir, Dancing in My Nightgown: The Rhythms of Widowhood | Site Map