Now I know how stand up comics feel when they don't get laughs. Last night we had my son's annual snowboard team meeting, and I'm the volunteer in charge so I had to get up in front of 70 or 80 kids and parents and give them the spiel so they'll sign up. It's torture being up in front of people. What do you wear? Most of my jeans cause the fat to squish out over the top, and when I wear those thin cotton tops they have now, I look like I've got an inner tube under my shirt.
And I can't talk. If you've ever seen someone tie a cherry stem in their mouth, that stem is what my tongue feels like when I'm in front of a crowd.
So I usually start out the meeting by introducing other people, the coaches and team captains and volunteers, because it takes the spotlight off of me for awhile.
This is my third year doing the team, so you'd think the meetings would be easy, but last night it was a tough crowd. A real tough crowd. I first had to start off by trying to get them quiet. Snowboarders are a pretty rambunctious group. It wasn't until my good friend, Laurie, screeched at the top of her lungs, "BE QUIET EVERYBODY" that they finally took notice of me at the front of the room.
I looked out over that sea of faces and all I could think of was, "If I wet my pants, do you think they'll notice in these dark jeans. Good thing I wore my boots." I clenched, and clutched my typed agenda in hand, and said, "Hello, I'm Suzanne, and I'd like to introduce you to our coaches." I called out their names and each one nodded to the crowd. "Would you like to say something to the team?" I asked. In unison, they shrugged their shoulders and nodded their heads, "No." I tried to make a little improv joke about their mutual muteness, but no one cracked a smile.
Do you remember how Rodney Dangerfield used run his finger around the inside of his collar and say, "Tough crowd tonight, real tough crowd." That's how I felt. I gave a nervous laugh and forged on.
"I'd like to introduce our team captains," I said brightly. I called out their names. They were all sitting by the windows, on top of the radiators, periodically banging their legs on the hollow metal. "Do you guys have any words of wisdom tonight?" Of all the things to pop into my head. Asking high schoolers if they have words of wisdom. Is that silly or what? It clammed three of them up outright. I gave the fourth, my son, a cold and threatening look.
"Aaaaa," he said. "Well, the team is really great. You'll love it. We need all of you, so join."
Eyes stayed on him for a moment, in anticipation of more words of wisdom, but when none were forthcoming, they snapped back to me. "Any of you other captains have anything to say?" I could hear the pleading in my voice.
Emily said a few things, bless her heart. I like that girl a lot. The other two nodded their heads quickly from side to side.
"Moving right along," I joked. Someone shifted in his seat. A pin dropped, and you could hear it. "Any questions?" I chirped. Pregnant pause. No questions. Not one. I walked over and opened one of the windows. "Do you think it's hot in here?" I asked to no one in particular, and no one in particular answered. Tough crowd.
"Okay, it's time to introduce some of our special volunteers. First, Kate, who's helped so much as volunteer coordinator. Kate, do you have anything to say about volunteering?"
Kate stood up for a split second. "I'll pass around some sign-up sheets. We need a lot of volunteers for the buses and competitions. And also to handle the banquet, which I usually do but I can't this year."
My heart broke. Kate not handle the banquet? She's the best volunteer I've got, and she pulls that huge banquet off without ever consulting me - I just show up, eat pizza, and never lift a finger. A banquet without Kate is like a banquet without...without...something, something really special. Tears started welling in my eyes. "Does anyone want to take on the banquet this year?" I asked, wiping my eyes with my shirt sleeve. I noticed the cuffs were dirty. The gestation period for this pause was about 12 months. "Anyone?" I implored. Finally Patrick raised his hand, "I'll do it," he said. I sighed a happy sigh. He's no Kate, but he's the next best thing.
Other volunteers were introduced, mutes every one. "Well, then," I said, "I'm going to try something new this year. I'll dismiss the returning people because it's just the same ol' same ol, and you can go in the hall and have someone check all your forms and payments, while I carry the meeting on with the new people so they can ask questions. Kids, you go with the team captains to hear about how fun the team is."
This was pre-arranged with the team captains, and they dutifully clanged down from the radiators and started leading kids out of the room. Returning people got up, but instead of leaving the room, they started chit chatting with the other returning parents. I'm standing at the front of the room waiting for things to settle down, and it just got louder and louder. A bunch of kids came back in the room, and my son came up to me and said, "Kids are going off in all directions. So we're not going to meet."
"But you have to tell them about the team, and practices, and how fun it all is."
He just shrugged his shoulders and mosied off. I looked around the room and there are a lot of new faces watching me. The noise was deafening. An exchange student from Brazil came up and said, "I want to be on team but only here 'til January. How much it cost me?" Another student said, "I don't have any money. Can I still be on the team." Someone else said, "I don't have my forms. My dog ate them." Someone else laughed. Yeah, he gets the first laugh of the night with something as lame as that?
I looked around for Laurie to screech "QUIET," but she was gone. I decided to follow her lead. Someone blocked my path with a question about snacks on the bus. The meeting disentegrated into individuals cornering me and shouting the same questions over and over, and me shouting the same answers. Finally, the room got quieter when people started leaving. I was too hoarse to talk to anyone else. I stood in front of the few stragglers and squeaked, "Any more questions?" Someone came over and said, "Is this the ski team meeting?"
Tough crowd. Really tough crowd.