It’s no secret that I talk very fast. The reasons for this are a story all its’ own. My friend Paul told me once that I speak at 80 miles per hour with gusts up to 120!
When I was in ninth grade the class had to do an oral report. The report could be about anything but it had to be between four and five minutes in length. I hated speaking in front of people but knew I had to do it so I buckled down. I wrote out my report and memorized it quickly.
I hated my speaking voice but knew I had to do the speech so made a decision. I would take three celebrities and try to mimic their best traits. I decided on Walter Cronkite’s tone, Dorothy Fuldheim’s articulation and Ghoulardi’s energy. Dorothy Fuldheim was a Cleveland news anchor and Ghoulardi was a Cleveland horror movie host. I was sure that if I combined these three I couldn’t lose.
I practiced this speech over and over. Each time I would try to get as close to five minutes as possible. I borrowed my brother’s stopwatch and checked it until I finally had it down. Three times in a row I clocked in at four minutes and fifty-five seconds. I would get an ‘A’ and get over the hang-up I had about speaking in front of people.
The next day were the oral reports. I was confident and ready. One by one the students went up and gave their report with varying degrees of quality. As each person went up I would get a little more nervous. Why wasn’t I being called so I could get it over with? Time dragged and the more I thought about it the more nervous I got. There were only ten minutes left in the class when they called the girl in front of me up. It was getting warm in the room and it was getting hard to breathe. Perhaps I wouldn’t have to do the report today. I stared at the clock. The girl sat down and I heard, “Mr Bott, You’re up.”
I handed the stopwatch to my buddy and told him to time me. I got up and took my place in front of the class. I remembered all my preparation and took two deep breaths. I started the speech and time started going very slowly. I felt as though I was in some kind of fugue state. I kept my pacing and articulation just as I had practiced but the speech was taking forever. Finally I finished and looked around. The teacher’s mouth was half open and everyone in the class was gaping at me. I sat down.
My buddy handed me the stopwatch, it displayed thirty seven seconds!! He looked at me and said, “You were like a munchkin on speed!” The bell rang and we went out in the hall. One of the guys from my chess team came over and said, “Man, the way you spoke is the way I always imagined aliens would speak.”
The next day during home room I was told to go down to the guidance counselor. When I got there he handed me an envelope. He said it was for my mother and that I shouldn’t read it. I explained indignantly that there was no reason to say that because the letter wasn’t for me and of course I wouldn’t read it. I walked out of his office and as soon as I got into the hall ripped open the letter and read it. It said:
Dear Mrs. Adams,
Please be advised that we have reason to believe that your son may be taking amphetamines. We advise you to monitor your son closely. If you have any questions feel free to call the school.
I found the letter to be very funny. I couldn’t take drugs, I was a chessplayer. I needed to keep my mind clear. That afternoon I gave the note to my mother and she read it very seriously. She looked at the note and then she looked at me. Then back at the note and to me again. Finally she spoke.
Mom: Randy, be honest. Have you been doing drugs?
Me: You know I can’t afford drugs? If I had the money for drugs my car wouldn’t be on ‘W’
Mom: OK, but I want you to know something. If anyone ever offers you drugs you know what to do right?
Me: Walk away?
Mom: No! Bring them home to me. If anyone needs drugs it’s me. I have all these kids and they are driving me crazy.
Me: Well, it’s a short drive.
We never heard anything more from the school about me doing drugs so everything worked out. I got a ‘C’ on the oral report. Unfortunately for the rest of the year I aquired the nickname of Munchkin. To this day one of my closest friends calls me Munch.