Ready for the Unexpected?
I was ready for anything, as long as one certain scenario didn’t happen.
But are you ready for that scenario? Just in case?
Oh man, this could go all perfectly wrong. Let’s see, the kids are out early today (which I also didn’t even realize until 11 AM), so that means I need to leave the house at 12:30 or 12:45 latest latest if I have to drive to get them at 12:50. The conference call is from 12 to 1:15 or so. Hmm, it could be just right or it could go terribly wrong.
Let’s calculate. He usually has a monologue for the first 30 or so minutes. That brings us up to 12:30. If I’m one of the first callers to get through, I might be able to get my question in and then take the answer off line and listen in while I get the kids. Maybe I could call another parent and have them just hold onto the kids for, well, even just 20 minutes would be great. Hmm, but who? Plus, it was already getting close to 12 when I realized most of this. It’ll be OK. I probably won’t get through anyway.
I wrote out my detailed question so I wouldn’t ramble with hundreds of people on the call. I wrote the first draft early in the morning and went through a few rounds of edits in the later morning. It was as concise as it was going to get. I thought about timing it and I could even announce, “OK, I have a question and I wrote it out, but don’t worry, it’s not longer than 72 seconds.” Hmm, pretty dorky. I didn’t time it. It was 6 or 7 shortish paragraphs. That’s not longer than a minute or two, right?
OK, on the call. Here we go. Wow, the topic is pretty close to my question, perfect. I can’t remember what number you’re supposed to dial to get onto the “raise your hand” list. Was it 2 or 1? I think it was 2. Aha, the moderator is on, oh, he says it’s #1. OK, press #1. He called on someone else. It’s 12:35.
Calculate: if he goes 15 or 20 minutes on an answer, maybe I can quickly stay on the phone, keep my earbuds in, and get the boys and bring them home and be back for a possible question. Hmm, I pressed #1 already, I wonder if that puts me in the queue already or if I have to press it again when the first caller is done. Dunno.
It’s 12:45 and he’s still answering the first caller. I have to run. In the car, up the hill, on the phone. I’m muted by the moderator, so no worries there. At first campus and don’t see my son. Hmm. Park. 12:55 or so, call officially about over. Maybe no one will get in with a second question. But he’s wrapping up the first caller. Aha, I see my son. Well, as long as he doesn’t let me in right at this moment. My son is approaching, “Can we go straight home or do we have to get Lu first?”
“OK, I’m putting caller #2 on the line. Let’s see, Bradley, you’re on the mic.”
As my son whined about having to get his little brother first, my cell phone connected to a conference call with hundreds of people on the line around the world. I was live.
How fast are you on your feet? Under pressure? When it’s that crucial time?
It didn’t even occur to me to defer, to say I just couldn’t ask my question, that the timing wasn’t right. I started talking.
If you’re a parent, you must know about this strange magnetic force in the universe that will pull a child closer to you when you’re on the phone. In fact, the more important the call and the more you don’t want the child around during the call, the stronger the pull. As I started talking to the line and turned away from my son to concentrate on my words, I felt my son’s presence practically on my heels, almost hovering sideways next to me like some hovercraft.
I’m on stage, the lights just came on, the curtains opened and my whole script has just been yanked out of my hands. I’m going to have to wing it.
“I can’t believe you called on me,” I say in a tone not annoyed but not starstruck either, more leading towards an explanation. “So I had my whole question written out in neat, concise and organized paragraph but now that you have me on the line, I’m standing in front of my kid’s school with a yard full of pre-teens so I’m just going to roll with it and here’s my summary.”
As I had rehearsed my question a few times in my head, I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I knew the main points as if there had been a heading atop each paragraph. I artfully touched on each paragraph without the actual words in front of me. Somehow, my nervousness transformed into a loose and joking light-hearted self who managed to get across his question actually probably better than had he had the full time, notes, and quiet to read through it.
In fact, the call leader, the target of my question, rolled right along with it and even laughed and said that he loved the situation and was jovial and accepting and maybe even more receptive to my question.
My dear son followed me around like a puppy dog as I gave him “the hand” and pointed to my earpiece in the sort-of-universal signal that I’m on a (modern) phone call and he should stop asking me questions about whether or not he could have a sleep over tomorrow night with his buddy. After a few seconds (it might have been 5 or 50), I shooed him away to go walk and pick up his brother at the neighboring campus a few blocks away. Finally, he was gone, but I was about done with my question anyway.
Under a tree and in view of the playground with dozens of kids playing basketball, next to moms and dads picking up their kids after school and with the nag of my son on my ankles like a yappy puppy, I got my question across, my points through, and even earned some laughs, respect, and hopefully even a story about how this call took place.
By the end of my question, somehow my light-hearted and it’ll-all-be-ok self shone through and it was well received. I think the call leader and I were practically slapping each other on the virtual back by the end his answer to my question.
Whew, I’m tired just thinking about it, about reliving it. But I’m now not sure, some hours later, if I would have changed a single moment of it. It transpired as it was meant to transpire and I rolled with it. I was so prepared that I was actually prepared for anything. I was even prepared for everything for that’s exactly what happened: everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. But it all turned out for the better.