Saturday, February 28, 2009

He wants to want.

A dark room containing a desk, ordered piles of paper, a coat rack with two broken prongs, and an electronic kitchen contraption labeled with Japanese characters. The windows, rapped by excessive wind and rain, click and rattle in the spirit of a happily employed union worker toiling in a Soviet propaganda film.

The door opens. A figure, backlit by the storm-ridden gloaming, enters along with a rush of wind. He strides into the room, removes his hat and coat, then shakes the loose water from them. After hanging them on the coat rack, he sighs and approaches the kitchen contraption. It beeps a short tune when he presses three buttons and turns a dial. A murky, steaming liquid pours out of a spout into a ceramic mug with the name "Betsy" printed on it.

The Answer Phone puts the steaming mug on the desk, twirls a fountain pen open, and begins to write.

Dear Answer Phone: Why do we have to start with "I want to..." when, say, we're thanking the committee that planned the meeting that is finally ending?

When I am called upon for public speaking engagements (please feel free to contact my agent with inquiries) I prepare myself through a rigorous series of trials of the soul. The first act is to don a frilly bustier and a pair of denim work pants. After panhandling for three hours, I take my earnings to a fine Greek small plate restaurant where I am well known. I spend all of my begged money on feta and octopus skewers.

For the next phase, I have had a walk in cooler installed at my office. I strip myself naked and lay down on the floor of the cooler for a night. In lieu of a blanket, I unroll a spool of thread across my body.

Upon waking, I make a gruel from boiled sandstone and Kobe beef which I eat with chopsticks.

At this point I am ready to either speak in front of people or participate in a reality TV show. Without anything but circumstantial evidence, I am convinced that successful public speakers who have any degree of self awareness participate in similar acts. I have heard accounts that Barack Obama's breath is often earthy and I have seen Michelle pluck a bit of thread from his hair just before he went before the cameras.

Even after this carefully designed regimen my mind swims as I approach a dais, podium, rostrum, or armored car. As I open my mouth for the first time, I feel the vast possibility of the moment and the likelihood that it will all go wrong.

In my mind is a pool of concepts, things like "Bride and groom good mostly but don't mention their lost loves from youth," or "Policy of truffle subsidy really the best we can do right now until the southern contingent gets shut out of the convention or gets bought off with concessions on cotton protectionism." Between that reservoir and the minds of the audience is my mouth. It is a poor tool. I could come across as so much gibberish or be misinterpreted entirely.

There in that moment, moistening my lips and taking in a preliminary breath, I am filled with a desire to get it right. And so, when I start, I start with "I want."

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