Sometimes I find it hard to believe where I was a decade ago; how uncomfortable I was with myself.  In these past ten years, I’ve changed pretty drastically, at least socially.  My public speaking abilities have at least reached a level of average, which, considering where I was in the 10th grade, feels pretty good.

Mind you, I’m no JFK, or MLK jr., but I’ve had my moments.  I still think back though, at what I was like back then.

Have you ever have one of those nights where you lay in bed and think back on everything stupid you’ve ever done?  You cringe and shudder at the thing you said, or did.  Sometimes, my brain (the same one that only thinks to drunk text friends and family about a day at work or a book they read), decides it wants to do an ESPN highlight reel of the awkwardness of Nick Blakeslee.  My high school life has enough highlight reel fodder to make Terry Bradshaw giggle with excitement.  I wish I could say the awkwardness was because I was quiet, and didn’t like human contact.  While I was quiet, and had severe social anxiety, I always wanted to be a funny guy.  Combine my inability crack a joke and my nervous cracking punch line voice and you get a colossal shitstorm of awkwardness.

I vividly remember getting physically ill when I’d have to do any sort of speaking in front of my peers.  The simple act of saying, “here,” when the teacher called my name would cause me to break out in a sweat.  I’d want to be quick and succinct, yet hilarious and profound.  Was that too much to ask?

Don’t mess this up, Nick, you got this.

“Abby?”

“Here!”

Ok, next is Cameron, then Blake, then Sarah, then…

“Cameron?”

“Yo.”

Damn, that was cool, he said ‘yo.’  People thought it was cool, what will I say?  I need to make them laugh, I have to do something funny.

“Blake?”

“Yo.”

More laughter?  He just used the same joke as Cameron.  That’s not even funny.

“Sarah?”

“…Yo?”

What the hell is going on, they just keep repeating themselves and people laugh.  I know what I’m going to say, this’ll be good.

“Nick?”

“Present!”

Fuck.  They didn’t think that was funny at all.  Don’t they get sarcasm?  It’s like, so proper and right, that it’s funny.  Can’t they see it’s ironically funny?

They got it, they understood.  What I didn’t understand was that it wasn’t funny.  This type of dialogue would go through my head every time I had to speak.  Even now it happens, for some reason when I speak in front of more than six people I feel like I have to prove something to them.  Like if I don’t make them cry from laughter, they’ll think I’m boring and weird.

The stupid this is, I probably could make them laugh if I’d just calm the hell down and stop trying so hard.  I’ve progressed very far from my high school nervous nutcase, but I’m not completely free of it.

It actually scares me, when some people have told me I should try a comedy night, to try going up on stage and tell a few jokes.  Last night a friend jokingly (I think) said they were going to kidnap me and trick me into some open mic night.  I laugh, nervously, and actually started getting clammy hands thinking about being forced to do such a thing. Even as I’m writing this, my heart rate is increasing simply because I’m picturing

myself on stage in front of people, with the sole purpose of making them laugh.

I don’t think I ever will, because I know how it’ll all go down.  There will be a host, he’ll ‘warm up the crowd’ (read: he’s setting them up for disappointment), make them laugh, and drive up my anxiety.  Then he’ll call my name:

“And please welcome, my good friend and funny guy, Nick Blakeslee!”

They’ll cheer, I’ll run out with a microphone and yell, “Present!”

And thus will end my career as a stand-up comedian.

My plan is to avoid doing something like that, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have to deal with a situation similar to that.  Indeed I have to deal with an open mic-esque situation several times a year.  Actually, it’s a situation every child deals with when they call their parents back home, especially during holidays.  It’s four words I absolutely hate hearing.

I mean it, I hate it.  I’m not exaggerating.  There are very few things on this planet that I hate more than this stupid invention by mankind, one that is heralded by that four letter phrase.  Whenever those four words are spoken, I revert back to my 10th grade self.  I curl back into my cocoon of social anxiety and say stupid things; things that I would never, ever say before.

“You’re on speaker phone!” My dad might tell me.

I might answer, I might smile, or, more likely, I might hang up, who knows.  Honestly, that’s probably the only thing that I’d ever hang up on someone for.

“I’m cheating on you!” Well shit, that sucks.

“I hit your car, and I’m not even sorry.” Well, you’re kind of a butthole, and I’m not even sorry.

“You’re fired.” Your mom’s fired.

But, “You’re on speaker phone.” *click*

That’s it, that’s the end of the conversation.  I’m not about to shout into my phone, with jokes and japes only to have someone say, “what was that? I couldn’t hear you.”  There’s nothing more unfunny than a repeated joke or a partial punch line.

But of course, I repeat myself, and of course, it’s not funny.  It wasn’t funny in the first place, but now that I’ve repeated it, I’ve signified that it was funny enough to repeat.  When the listener finds out it’s not funny, it only makes it worse.

Thoughts of their thoughts race through my mind:

Why would he repeat that?  That wasn’t even funny.  Who is this guy anyway?  Why do would I associate myself with this unhumorous bafoon?

Then images of a whole room of people staring at a phone with my voice emitting from it comes to mind.  They all watch it, strained looks on their faces as they try to make out what I’m saying.  Of course, they can’t understand me, because no phone comes with a good speaker.  It’s either crackling and too loud, or muffled and too quiet.  It’s like they ripped off a speaker from a drive-through window, slapped it on the new iPhone 5s and called it a day; congratulating themselves on their clever way to save money.

It’s no better being on the other end either.  You have to shout at the phone like you were involved in some sort of fireworks factor accident, leaving you 94% deaf in both ears.

How are you?” you ask.

“What?”

“I said, How are you?”

“You’re in the Bayou?”

“No, HOW ARE YOU?”

“What do I chew? Nothing, I hate the stuff.”

At this point, I don’t even care about the person on the other end of the line.  I could repeat myself and ask how they are, but it’d be insincere.  I’d be lying to them and myself if I asked them how their day was going.

It doesn’t matter who’s on the other line either.  It can be a significant other, a friend, my family, I could be talking to Mother effin’ Teresa and I’d have an internal bout of rage.

It’s a temporary hate, it has nothing to do with them, honestly.  I don’t hate them because they use speaker phone, I hate them for the briefest of moments because they can’t understand me.  Most of all, it’s a misguided hatred towards that stupid speaker phone.   (I’d make an analogy with the game ‘telephone’ but I don’t think it’d be an analogy.)   For some reason I believe that the speakerphone is a sentient entity, that it is driven only by its insatiable desire for miscommunication.  Its twisted, demonic goal is to lead us to feel sincere hatred towards the person on the other end of the phone.

It mocks me as it hides behind its title as an ‘inanimate object.’

Honest to God, it is one of the worst things ever.  I truly believe speaker phone was conceived by some evil scientist bent on the destruction of mankind, one holiday phone call at a time.  I picture Hitler okaying the creation of the speakerphone between signing off the T4 program and The Final Solution.  Or maybe World War I was started because Kaiser Wilhelm II was put on speaker phone at the League of Nations.  It’s not that hard to believe.

This world would be a better place if speakerphone had never been invented.  Like mustard gas, Justin Beiber, and rush hour traffic, it’ll be labeled as one of the great mistakes of mankind.  Someday, eons from now, aliens will find our forgotten race and technology.  They’ll sift through our architecture, and twisted remains, creating the story of mankind.  We’ll be simple creatures, ones with so much promise, so much intellect, so much potential.  In their journey to categorize and rank the creatures of planet earth, they’ll drop us just below the two toed sloth and cuttlefish.  We’ll be labeled as the race who destroyed themselves with that stupid invention.

Destroyed themselves because of speakerphone.

I’ll know there’s hope for us all when speakerphone becomes a forgotten feature of communication.  In the meantime, I’ll just have to pray that my public speaking gets better.

If there ever comes a time when I can speak on speakerphone, I’ll know I’ve staked my claim in the history books.  If there ever comes a time where I can do standup AND talk on speakerphone at the same time, I’ll know I’ve transcended beyond the abilities of the rest of mankind.