It’s common knowledge, I think, that one our biggest fears as humans is public speaking. I can relate to that. The racing heart, the quavery voice, the urge to run out of the room and upchuck into a trash can. Been there, done that. Well, two out of three anyway. Still, I keep torturing myself, because, being the glass half-full kind of person, I stupidly think things are going to get easier. Hasn’t happened yet, but I remain hopeful.
I’ve been attending City Council meetings in Pismo Beach lately — walking on shaky legs to the microphone to speak my peace regarding a humongous project they seem about to approve for Price Canyon. I suppose it might be nice for Thousand Oaks, or Ventura, or San Diego, or Oxnard, or any of the other zillion places that have already succumbed to mass development. But here? Not so much.
So I, along with a whole bunch of other quivery-voiced people, step up to the mic. I listen to myself and wonder who that ridiculous voice belongs to — the one everyone can hear booming through the speakers. What confounds me, is that some folks seem to have no fear. They stride up and speak with confidence — almost as if they enjoy it! That’s me in my next life.
I’ve read that a lot of performers have anxiety issues. Well, I for one, would get out of that business in a hurry — the adrenaline rush can’t be good for your heart, and who wants to go to work every day and get hit with the emotional equivalent of running away from a grizzly bear?
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When I was a teacher I had no problem getting up in front a class and doing the dog and pony show; I guess the difference being, the audience members were all younger than the age of 12. Whether it was multiplying fractions or the explaining The Proclamation of 1763, I was good to go. I used to love to teach perimeter and throw in a story about trying to keep my dogs inside the fence. OK, so I did a little bird walking — call it pedagogical license. Maybe that’s the key to my three minutes in front of the council. I need to throw in a few stories about my dogs.
Actually, one lady did mention her dog the other night. She got up and said that she was a proponent of the Price Canyon project because it has a dog park. I’m a confessed canine lover, but even I had a hard time with that one. I don’t care how calm her voice was, somehow allowing the development of nearly a thousand acres for a quarter-acre dog run doesn’t seem like a good bargain. But, that’s just my opinion.
I was jealous of that dog lady’s cool, modulated tone of voice though. Maybe she even learned to speak like that in school. Remember the teachers who always made you get up in front of the class to present your book report? I was one of those, and some of my students were not happy about it. You’d think I would have had a little more sympathy, with my history and all. But really, I was just trying to prepare them for future city council meetings.
I’ve noticed that the developer guy and the PR people don’t seem to have any problem speaking in front of a group. There’s not one quavering voice in the bunch. They do appear to be nice people, and they keep telling us that they’re our neighbors, although I’ve yet to see one of them in line at Albertsons. Maybe I need to start shopping at the store in Westlake or Laguna Nigel. Bet I’d see them there.
Probably developers don’t get sweaty palms or raise their voices either. I admit that I did sound irritated a few times in the classroom over the years. I feel bad about it, but it is a challenge to spend six hours a day with 30-plus children and not get a little cranky once in a while. More recently, I was shushed by the Pismo mayor when I got overly exuberant in support of a speaker at the council meeting. I’ve never seen one of the developers get out of hand, that’s for sure. I do admire their type though. They remain cool and calm always. Or seem to. My guess is that inside their heads they’re screaming, “shut up!” and they want to rush the mic and strangle me. That’s just speculation on my part of course.
I don’t know. The speakers are all so composed and convincing. Maybe 961 acres, 473 residential units, 120 senior units, a hotel, a golf course, a wine center, a 10,000-foot conference center and 5,000 square feet of retail space isn’t such a bad trade-off for a dog park. I don’t suppose the dogs will mind seeing all of those hills covered with houses and I doubt Mr. Developer Guy will notice either, from the grocery store in Westlake.
Suzanne Davis is happily retired and living in the South County with her husband and their three dogs. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.