June 29, 2014


I spoke at a high school career day yesterday.
Can you say, “disaster”?
Trust me, this is not an activity for the faint of heart, if you expect to leave feeling good about yourself.
Here was the bill:  a doctor, a lawyer, a pro basketball player, the CEO of a large company, a spokesmodel, a chef, a politician, and, with a barely perceptible nod to the creative sector, me…a lowly writer.
Now, I never considered writing for a living to be a “lowly” profession prior to that day.  The ability to communicate effectively with one’s own kind seemed an important mission.  Being able to entertain humanity enough to, in the vernacular, “get big laughs” had previously struck me as a rather noble calling.
If the results of that grueling day were any indication of majority opinion, we all might as well chuck our pens, paper, and computers in the bin and take up playing guitar at Grand Central Station instead.
At any rate, we were set to speak in groups of three, but there was a cancellation at the last minute, so the groups became 3-3-2.  OK.  So far, so good.
First onstage were the doctor (from a trauma unit), the lawyer (a prosecutor), and the CEO (from Remington Firearms).  This was one tough bunch!  The procedure was for each of us to do quick individual presentations about our occupations, then throw the floor open to questions from the auditorium full of high school seniors.  The first three went out while the rest of us waited in a green room in the auditorium wings.  Since it seemed to be soundproofed, we didn’t hear any of the initial round presentations or questions.
After forty-five minutes, doctor, lawyer, and CEO tottered back, scrabbling for their coats.  They were mere shadows of their former robust, confident selves.  Pale and trembling, they inquired about the location of the nearest bar, then sprinted out the door and left an inch of rubber behind them in the parking lot.
This didn’t bode well for the rest of us.
Next, the pro basketball player (from the Bulls), the chef (from Brooklyn), and the politician (from hunger).  Again, another tough group.  Same procedure, then questions.  This time, I opened the door and listened.  I expected to hear the beginnings of a riot on a par with Attica, but no.  The students were quiet and respectful.  What was going on, then?  Presentations complete, the question-and-answer portion began.  I couldn’t hear any of the questions, so I closed the door and resumed my seat.
In ten minutes or so, the door flew open again, and again, when the two women and one extremely tall gentleman took their leave, it was clear that they intended to join the first group at the corner bar immediately, if not sooner.
Now it was our turn…the spokesmodel’s and mine.  This particular paring didn’t give me a great deal of confidence going in.  As we walked onstage, I was thinking that this woman was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.  Being merely an “OK” looking female, I definitely felt like a 3 tagging along with a 10.
Then she opened her mouth, and it became instantly clear that, though she had a body by Rodin, she had a brain by Mattel.
She grabbed the mike, while I, ensconced in one of the uncomfortable metal folding chairs that seem to dwell exclusively in schools and funeral homes, thought, “Let the games begin!”
“Hi there, kids!” she cried, in a voice that proved conclusively that Howdy Doody did, indeed, have siblings.  This female was either a spokesmodel who promoted things to deaf lip-readers, or she was one of those “point and smile” types, while someone with more mellifluous pipes did the voiceover.  The fact that Minnie Pearl would have been a vast improvement pretty much tells the story.
“My name is Laverne Monroe, and I’m a spokesmodel for ‘Vibrator Heaven,’ a sex toy shop…”
That was as far as she got.  The principal and two math teachers suddenly appeared from the wings and hustled her off the stage.
It would have been funny if it were not for the consequences.  There were now twenty-five minutes left to fill, and only little old me…neither gorgeous nor provocative…to fill them.  Add that to an auditorium full of hormonal teenagers who were more than a little upset about “Miss Sex Toys’” abrupt departure, and you have a resultant fiasco of such magnitude that it would probably register on the Richter Scale.
“Ahem.  I’m Carson Buckingham, and I’m a professional writer.”
You could have cut the ennui with a backhoe.
I outlined my various accomplishments, which I’m sure weren’t as interesting as Laverne’s…both to the audience and to me.  Then I threw the whole catastrophe open for questions, and the worst possible thing happened.
Nobody asked anything.
There was complete, scornful silence.
Finally, a faculty member took pity on me.
“Ms. Buckingham?”
“Yes?”  Good.  I was sure to get a decent question I could kill a few minutes with from a teacher.
“Are you related to Lindsey Buckingham?”
The students glanced at each other with expressions that shouted, “Who?
Not too many Fleetwood Mac fans in that audience, evidently.
My left brain was mightily disappointed by such an inane question.  However, my right brain sprang into action, slapped me upside the head and shouted, “It’s a life preserver, you moron!  Grab it or it’s Titanic time, baby!”
 “Yes, I am,” I lied.
“Oh, my, are you really?” she gushed.  Apparently, most of the faculty members at least recognized the name.  Hands flew up like Birnham Wood on its way to Dunsanane.
I spent the balance of my onstage time discussing everything I had ever read on the backs of album covers about Mr. Buckingham and his career, and making up what I didn't know.   I think I pulled it off.  As a matter of fact, I ran twenty minutes over.  I wrapped it up to a standing ovation from the faculty and a snoring ovation from the student body.
As I left the auditorium, after promising Lindsey’s autograph to at least thirty-five people, I found myself walking behind two teachers who were discussing me.
“Wasn’t she wonderful?  I had no idea she was related, did you?”
“No, I didn’t.  I’m glad Marge asked her.  What was her career, though? Do you remember?”
“I think she’s Lindsey’s publicist, isn’t she?”
“Oh, that’s nice…keeping things in the family, I mean.”
I guess “celebrity” beats “cerebral” every time.

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