A standard type middle school (grade 7-9) on Vancouver Island -- halls full of hormones -- and me in the main lecture room talking to a hundred slumping bodies. Middle schoolers can make for a challenging audience because they do not appear to respect you. You may think you are important, they seem to say, or learned or funny or whatever, but you have got nothing for me. Personally, I love middle school. The kids are like pizza pops -- so cool on the outside, and so full of stuff inside. Once you warm them up they are a real treat. So there I was, doing my microwave thing, thawing my crowd out, when I heard ominous sounds from the room next door. No, I do not mean creaking doors and dragging chains, and a high-pitched quavery scream. Ominous meaning noisy, in a preparatory way. Through the painfully thin connecting wall I heard a concert band begin to tune up. Clarinets first, then the rest of the woods. (Who designs a school with the lecture hall beside the band room? BC architects are a funny crowd. )
I shot a quick look at one of the teachers, sitting off to the side. He shrugged. Oy, I thought.
The concert B flat got louder as the brass joined in. My audience looked around. I gestured wider, trying to draw them back to me. I didn't want to give up yet. As a presenter I have competed against flying birds in the arena, multi-car accidents on the road outside, and in-room attacks of gas and nausea. I'm a seasoned pro. I knew that violence or sex were my best topics here, so I trotted out my story of the giraffe, Paris Hilton and the Dalai Lama (man, does that get bloody) when the band broke into -- would you believe -- O Canada. And my crowd blinked collectively, shuffled to their feet, and stood there, looking awkward. (Adorable or what? I didn't know whether to laugh, or go up to the nearest tough-looking boy and pinch his cheek. )
I had no choice now. In my clear resonant baritone I began to sing. And the kids joined in. Good singers, for the most part. I even heard some harmonies. We got most of the way through the anthem, and then the trumpets came in too high and too early (God keep our land, glorious and kaak! tarantara!), and the band teacher stopped them. We all laughed, and the kids sat down, and I started another story. It was a great middle-school moment.
Shoot, got to go. That's my time for today. Zombies beckon, and then I have a meeting in town with an old girlfriend. (Who says I don't lead a varied and exciting life.) Next post -- my talentless family.