Class Attendance

A professor talking about class attendance said that he had no illusions that attending his class was essential to get “A’s” in his course.

I recall the story of a student who attended just the first class of the semester and did not show up again until the final exam. He scored 95% on the exam. The professor was shocked because she knew he hadn’t come to class all semester. She wrote “See me” on the cover of the exam. After the exams were passed back and the class was over, the student approached the professor and said, “You wanted to see me about my exam?”

The professor responded, “Yes. How did you get a 95 on that exam?”

The student answered, “Well, it would have been 100, but I went to your first class and got confused.”

Favorite Lines

Sometimes a two-minute story is not what the speaker needs. What is needed is a one liner or a short dialogue. Here are some of my favorites.

A message posted near a handicapped sign:  “If you are not handicapped when you park here, you will be when you leave.”

Sign in a middle school homeroom:  Laugh and the class laughs with you. But you go to the principal’s office alone.”

Mark Twain had this to say about a certain person he did not like:  “I didn’t attend the funeral but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

During the presidential debates in 1980, some complained that Reagan was too old to run for office. Reagan began his comments at one of the debates with Mondale by saying, “I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

A friend of mine told about her kindergartener getting into her car after school one day and saying, “Our class learned how to tell time today, except for one person.”  “Who was that?” my friend asked. His reply: “Me.”

A salesperson for a certain Chicago cemetery presented to community groups a program he called, “Grave Happenings.”

Sometimes it can be a message on a bumper sticker or refrigerator magnet, such as: “Why am I in this handbasket and where is the world going with me?”

Be ready to write down a line that makes you laugh or makes you think. You never know when what you write could be the great beginning of your next presentation.

Practice Short Leaps

A story I found in Guideposts many years ago has application to various topics, especially when giving tips for improvement in some area. It is a good hook for a presentation if you are having a hard time with the continuity of your main points.

A big game hunter in India sighted a large Bengal tiger. Since the animal was only a short distance away, the hunter took a quick shot and missed. The tiger leaped toward the hunter, and, fortunately for the hunter, he jumped over the hunter and the hunter escaped.

The relieved hunter returned to camp and was concerned about his poor aim. So the next morning he went behind the camp to practice shooting at short range. As he was practicing, he heard rustling in the bushes nearby. He looked, and there was the same tiger practicing short leaps.

Sometimes it is not the big goal that makes a difference, but the short leaps that are significant. Here are some short leaps that we can all use to improve our (fill in the blank with your topic).

Children Ask the Good Questions

Children in their innocence can ask the best questions. I read of an eight-year- old who went on a field trip to the local police station.  The sergeant in charge was taking them through the facility and showing them various parts of the system. He took them inside the jail and had them look through the bars. Then he said, “This is not where you want to be.”

This was certainly startling to the third graders. He let them look around and then took them to the pictures of the “Most Wanted” criminals posted on the bulletin board.

Then he said, “These are the people we are looking for that belong in jail.”

The eight-year-old raised his hand and said, “Why didn’t you keep them when you took their picture?”

It’s All About Me

Because of chomping down on a “sugar daddy” sucker, I broke a tooth and filling which required serious dental work.  In discussing this procedure with my dentist, I told him about my huge fear of dentists and that I would probably grimace, make guttural sounds, and tense up with any drill-like sound.

Then I finished by saying, tongue-in-cheek, “How about a glass of whiskey?”

His response was,  “Well, that’s fine with me, but after I have a glass my hands get a little shaky.  I’m not sure that is a good idea.”

I said, “No, I’m referring to me!”

“Oh,” he said. “It’s always about me! me! me!”

We both had a good laugh and his reaction made me feel less negative about my condition.  Using humor is a great way to diffuse a difficult situation.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

Sometimes our surroundings take our minds off our tasks in very negative ways.

An aspiring actor received a call from his agent to report to a Broadway theater within the hour.  An actor with a small part had gotten ill and the director needed an immediate replacement. 

“The only line you have,” said the agent, “is ‘Hark, I hear the cannon roar.’  When you step on stage that is all you have to say. “

On the subway to the theatre he kept practicing his line to find the right emphasis, “Hark, I hear the cannon roar!” 

He arrived at the theatre just in time.  He put on his costume, still rehearsing for his special moment.  He was shoved on stage and immediately two explosions boomed off stage. 

He was so startled that he shouted, “What in the world was that?”

Several unhappy people resulted from that cannon roar.

How’s Your Hearing?

At a prayer meeting the minister says, “Anyone with needs to be prayed over come forward to the front at the altar.”

John gets in line, and when it’s his turn, the preacher asks, “John, what do you want me to pray about for you?”

John replies, “I need for you to pray for help for my hearing.”  The preacher puts one finger in John’s ear, and he places the other hand on top of John’s head and prays and prays and prays.  The church joins in with enthusiasm. 

After a few minutes, the minister removes his hands, stands back and asks, “John, how is your hearing now?” 

John says, “I don’t know, Reverend–it isn’t until next Wednesday.” 

This story reminds us that before taking action we need to understand the context of the conversation. Ask questions. Paraphrase what you understood the other person to say. As I often say, meaning is in people, not in words.

Thinking on Your Feet

A skill that does not come easily for me is the ability to think on my feet. I usually think of the right words ten minutes later. One teenager certainly perfected this special knack.

When working in the produce department of a grocery store, he is asked by a customer, “Do you have a half head of lettuce?” 

He says, “Ma’am, we don’t sell half heads of lettuce.” 

“Would you be sure?  Please check in the back.” 

So he goes to the back as the manager comes out. The young man does not realize that the woman is following him.

He says to the manager, “Some idiot out there wants a half head of lettuce.” 

Then, when he sees the horror on the manager’s face, he turns around and sees her right behind him.

His quick response: “And this fine lady wants the other half. Would that be okay?”

Technology in Its Infancy

We have come a long way with using technology in courtship. Romance is enhanced by texting, sending pictures, and other communication methods that we never dreamed about years ago. And of course these have presented many embarrassing moments. But there were challenges in technology in past generations as well. Here is an example from the sixties.

At the end of their first date, a young man takes his favorite girl home. They have had a good time so he decides to try for that important goodnight kiss.

With an air of casual confidence, he leans with his hand against the wall and, smiling, says to her, “How about a goodnight kiss?” 

Horrified, she replies, “Are you mad?  My parents will see us!”

“Oh, come on, there’s nobody around, they’re all sleeping!”

“No way! It’s just too risky!”

“Oh, please, we had such a good time.”

“I agree, but my family teases me enough as it is.” 


Out of the blue, the porch light goes on, and the girl’s sister, in pajamas, hair disheveled, flings open the door .

In a sleepy voice the sister says:  “Dad says to go ahead and kiss him. Or I can do it. Of if need be, he’ll come down himself and do it. But for crying out loud, tell him to take his hand off the intercom button!”

Cat Challenges

Cats are not my favorite animals and they do not like me either.  Cats and I work to stay clear of each other.  However, this story of the cat and the husband makes me smile because I could have been the husband. 

A husband hated his wife’s cat. One day he decided to get rid of it by driving two streets from his home and leaving it at the park.  As he arrived at home, the cat walked up to the front door. 

The next day he decided to drive the cat ten streets away and the same thing happened again.  As he drove into his driveway, there was the cat!

He kept taking the cat further and further, and the cat would always beat him home. 

At last, he decided to drive a few miles away, turn right, then left, past the bridge, then right again and another right until he reached what he thought was a safe distance from his home and left the cat there. 

Hours later the man calls home to his wife, “Sarah, is the cat there?” 

“Yes,” the wife answered.  “Why do you ask?” 

“Put him on the phone!  I’m lost.”