Sleep Before You Speak - And Watch Out For Tornados

by James

A Tornado Ate My Speech, Photo by Saiuri

The art of extemporaneous speaking is best performed by an adult with a clear head.

Not by a 13 year old who spent the entire night awake in a tornado shelter.

I was a young cadet in a southern military school back in 1974 when my big opportunity to qualify for the state forensics finals came to a crashing halt on a sunny, blue-skied Saturday morning. It was the morning after one of the longest and scariest nights of my life.

A rash of tornadoes went across the Midwest and South the night before (the ones that leveled the town of Xenia, Ohio…go rent the films about it). I had planned on getting a full night’s rest before the big day, but was rudely awakened by the town’s air raid/nuclear holocaust/tornado siren and by a panicked school Commandant.

“Twister headed our way boys... down to the basement... NOW!”

I remember the sound of the storm outside going quiet as we ran down the stairs. Then we heard it.

Tornadoes do sound like freight trains... when they fly overhead, it feels like someone putting a vacuum hose to your ear.

I have no idea what it’s like when it touches the ground...nor do I ever want to know.

We were young…full of adrenaline…scared stiff…and up all night.

And I wound up making a complete fool of myself that next day. Did not pass go…did not qualify for the finals...

But did manage to turn the experience into a very good stock story when needed. Both scary and humorous at the same time.

The moral of the story: you can always recycle a bad public speaking experience into your next public speaking opportunity as a way of breaking the ice.

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