I WAS in Japan lecturing on
U.S. technology to some Japanese executives, and I decided to start my talk with a joke a
Japanese friend had told me. It seems there was a Japanese executive whose company had
sent him overseas for a year. Not long after his departure he received a telegram from his
wife saying: "Good news! You are going to be a father." The executive was
thrilled and waited eagerly for the news of the birth of his child. Eight months later he
received another telegram from his wife. "Bad news," it said. "You have a
son with blond hair." Instead of the raucous laughter I had expected, the businessmen
just stared at me. Stunned, I asked what was wrong. More silence. Finally one of the
executives spoke up. "How did you know about Mr. Takahashi?" he asked.
"That was supposed to be a company secret!"
I WAS attending a Romance Writers of America conference at a Seattle hotel. The
elevator to the meeting floor was filled with unknown but hopeful authors. It stopped at
the fourth floor, the doors opened and two women tried to get on. "Sorry," one
of the passengers said. "We haven't room for another person." As the doors
closed and we continued our ascent, a sudden hush fell over the group. "Those were
editors," someone said in awe. "Yes," chuckled another. "And we
JOHN ERICKSON, the Texas Panhandle cowboy turned author, has a favorite rejection slip
from a New York editor who wrote that Erickson's manuscript had "too much integrity
and not enough sex." It was this criticism that inspired Erickson to begin his own
publishing company, Maverick Books. At a cattlemen's meeting last year, Erickson told his
audience of the letter. Afterward an elderly man stopped him to say, "Don't feel bad,
Mr. Erickson. I've got the same problem, and I'm not even a writer.
"NEXT," the conference emcee
announced, "we have the chief of police, who
is here with his lovely wife, Beverly." The chief took his place at the lectern.
"I'm a little nervous," he began, "getting up before this distinguished
audience and speaking today. But I am not nearly as nervous as I will be tonight when I
must go home with my wife, Audrey, and explain Beverly to her!"
A MORTICIAN friend of mine was on the entertainment committee for a funeral directors'
convention. When a product supplier, Aurora Casket, learned that the golf tournament had
been canceled because of a lack of funds, it agreed to sponsor the event. To show their
appreciation, the funeral directors named the tournament The Aurora Casket Open.
THINKING she would be proud, I told my mother that I was to speak about
marketing to a group of hospital housekeeping department directors. "You're going to
talk to a group of housekeepers?" she asked. "Better you should listen.
NORMAN VINCENT PEALE describes the time he was the speaker
at an affair for funeral directors and embalmers: The job of affixing a white carnation to
my lapel fell to a somewhat diminutive female undertaker. I learned too late that she
wasn't terribly dexterous, for she stuck her thumb with the pin and also managed to ram it
into my shoulder. "You know," she said in exasperation, "this would be much
easier if you were lying down."
BECAUSE of the scramble of last-minute work before a business trip, I had to wait until
I arrived at my hotel to prepare my speech for presentation the next morning. I began
writing immediately, but it was midnight before I was able to begin rehearsing aloud. Hour
after hour I droned on, repeating the entire speech while trying various voice levels for
emphasis. At 5 a.m., as I went over the introductory phrases once more, I was interrupted
by stern throat-clearing in the next room, followed by a stentorian, "AND IN
CONCLUSION . . . !"
AN EMINENT lecturer was asked to speak at a girls' college. After the talk, the young
secretary asked him if he would accept a check. When he assured her that he was glad to
give his services and did not require any payment, she told him that she had already made
out the check. Then she had an idea. Would the lecturer accept the check and then present
it to their fund? The speaker thought that was an excellent suggestion, and he agreed. As
he was leaving, he asked the secretary what the fund was for. "Oh," she said
brightly, "it's for providing better speakers next term."
THE mayor's wife had been asked to speak in both official
languages on behalf of the blood-donor clinic in our Quebec town. Not fluent in English,
she was a little nervous, but she had practiced her speech and everything went well.
Feeling elated at her success and wishing to end on a personal note, she went on to
ask, with great appeal in her voice, "Ladies, please come out to the bloody clinic,
IT WAS the first night of a week-long seminar, the auditorium
was packed, and the chairs were hard. When the three-hour presentation was over, I
was only too glad to get to my feet. Turning around I noticed a couple picking up
cushions they had brought to sit on. I caught the fellow's eye and, pointing to his
cushion, asked "Foresight?" "No," he replied.
THE main speaker at a club luncheon was going on at length
about a dull subject. Finally a man in the audience stepped outside, where he met another
club member, who asked, "Has he finished his speech? " "Long
ago," was the weary response, "but he won't stop talking."
OUR meeting was over and we had congregated in the kitchen
where our hostess was preparing coffee. Taped to the refrigerator was a "job
sheet," obviously displayed there as a reminder to the youngsters in the household.
"The children have to complete those chores before I hand out their allowances,"
explained the hostess. "Does it work?" asked one of the other mothers
skeptically. "Oh, yes! Like a charm. I haven't paid in weeks."
A HOME economist visited our club to speak on household
cleaning and organization. "Is your home a place of order?" the woman asked.
"If you were in an accident, how would your home stack up?" As the speaker
paused to let this thought sink in, my friend spoke quietly into my ear. "If I'm ever
in an accident," she pleaded, "please burn my house down."
AT A meeting of our volunteer organization there was heated
discussion over who would be responsible for some 900 prize ribbons for our annual fair.
The job had previously been done by a woman who was a long - standing member. Now the time
had come for younger hands to get involved. No one volunteered. Finally a member was
nominated who promptly said, "I don't know if I'd like it." The woman who
had done the job for so long replied, "You don't have to like it, just do it."
Everything that describes a volunteer was said in that short exchange.
MY HUSBAND was telling colleagues about his involvement with
our local YMCA Indian Guides and Indian Princesses programs. His Indian name was Walking
Deer, he told them. Our daughter was Little Fawn, and our son, Running Deer.
"What do you call your wife!" one co- worker asked. "Yes Dear,"
my husband replied.
A FAMOUS jurist once mistook an insane asylum for the college
at which he was scheduled to speak. Realizing his mistake, he explained to the gatekeeper
and commented, "I suppose, after all, there is not a great deal of difference."
"Oh, yes, there is," replied the guard. "In this place you must show
some improvement before you can get out."
THE speaker at a seminar I attended introduced his next topic
by asking the group if our office had a grape vine. Replied one bright young man, "I
heard that we do."
IN 1965, two years after emigrating to Canada, I delivered a
lecture in Regina, Sask., and at the end of my speech I was asked to acknowledge a few
individuals. At that time, my Scottish accent was still pronounced. One person had a
Ukrainian name which, to me, defied pronunciation; but I did my best. At the end of the
lecture, I talked to the woman, and when she turned to leave, she said with a smile,
"It was a gallant effort, but you mispronounced my name." "Oh, I'm .
. . I'm very sorry," I stammered. "No, no," she replied. "Don't
apologize. You mispronounced it beautifully."
WHEN the Woodstock Historical Society in Ontario learned that
their jail might be torn down, they started a fund to save it and sent out invitations to
people to tour the premises. The invitations said that refreshments would be served. More
than 2000 people turned up and were served typical jail fare - bread and water!
AFTER much discussion, a woman persuaded a friend of mine to
attend a meeting of her club. My friend said he didn't want to be out too late, though,
because he lived a considerable distance away. "Don't worry," she assured
him. "We'll be through by eight o'clock at the latest." Eight o'clock came
and went, and the meeting dragged on. My friend sat patiently. It was past
midnight when he was asked to close the meeting with a benediction. Bowing his head,
he began, "Excuse me, Lord, but I hope I didn't wake you. . . ."