Nothing plants a memory more firmly in your head than a little embarrassment. Who doesn’t like a little shame or public humiliation in their life?
It was my junior year of college and things weren’t going well. I still hadn’t learned the trick on how to force yourself to go to class. There was something almost exciting about standing up and walking out of class early and having no one try to stop you. I loved it a little too much and think I began leaving class just to see if people noticed.
I grabbed my red Ralph Lauren jacket, my notebook, wallet and keys, and headed out my apartment door. I quickly jumped down the two steps leading to the parking lot where my baby, a green two door Honda Civic, was waiting. My car peeled out as I headed towards UT campus with Kanye’s High School Drop Out blaring in the wind. Knoxville flashed by me as I sped towards the part of campus where my history class was being held.
Finding parking was impossible back in 2003 and it took awhile to find somewhere my baby could wait while I went to give my oral report on Roman civilizations. I was ready and had been up all night preparing. Actually that was a lie, I was up all night… but I recall not much time was used for preparing and more time was spent doing other things.
I grew nervous thinking about giving that report in front of actual people. It also occurred to me that I had only been to class a few times and most of them would probably be wondering who the hell I was.
I did what you do anytime you grow nervous in college, even if it is 10 am before class…
I pulled out my trusty double barrel flask and emptied both reserves into my mouth. Instantly I started to feel really good about the speech and headed towards my class with my notes.
UTK is a large campus and my car was really far from the class. By the time I got to the classroom the whisky had worn off totally and I was starting to panic a little. I have a huge phobia of speaking in front of large people and having those people judge me. It is particularly more difficult when those people are supposed to be judging you, like for a grade for class, and you are now positive you don’t remember actually forming out a plan for what you will say on the… which Empire again?
As my foot crossed through the door into a packed classroom, holy shit how many people are in this class and where do I sit, I was positive this was about to be one of the worst experiences in my life. I knew a ton about the Roman Empire, but without a plan I was a sailboat with no wind.
You know how sometimes it feels like the world knows when you are down and still she decides to plant just one more foot into your rear for good measure?
“Jason Cushman you are first to present today… is Jason Cushman here?” a voice seemed to boom from nowhere.
Fuck me… I thought as I headed before all the waiting eyes that I was sure were wondering who I was.
Jason Cushman… who is this guy looks darted towards me as I made my way down the suddenly ridiculously long aisle to the front podium. I set my notes down and cleared my throat as I looked over the many faces in front of me.
“The Roman Empire was a great empire that had an intricate road system…” I began nervously.
I couldn’t think of anything else to say…
I had forgotten English.
The eyes in front of me turned from intrigued, to puzzled… to half amused and half baffled.
“… Thank You.” I suddenly said and then quickly walked back down the aisle to my seat and sat down. I pretended like everyone didn’t exist and what I had just done was perfectly normal even though I felt every eye in the room on me thinking what the fuck just happened?
I starred at my desk for a total of 56 and a half minutes until the class was over. I didn’t look at anyone once and waited for everyone to leave first. I was mortified, but I also was suddenly panicked about the sure F I had just received for a grade on my presentation.
I made my way to the front of the class to talk to the professor and I decided I deserved one time in life where I get to pretend to be totally foreign. I mean… I am adopted, I was technically born in Korea.
I lied and told him my English wasn’t very good and asked him if I could write a paper instead of giving an oral presentation. I’ll admit I may have acted a little and exaggerated my speech.
Long story short – he let me write a paper and I got an A. I suffered through some major embarrassment, but in the end lying helped me succeed.
And that’s the moral of this story today.
Jason C. Cushman