Mr. Applebee’s address to the staff always gave us a cold feeling of insecurity. He was a big man with a grand stature. God is generally unkind on humanity and He compensates that by being overtly gracious on a hand-counted few. Applebee, with his radiant demeanour, awe-inspiring voice and majestic personality was also compassionately blessed as the son-in-law of the board chairman. So, it was a part of his princely priviledge to address the staff, as if it were his private butlers. Everybody respected the chairman and hesitantly complied. So, while we bad mouthed him in our gossip seesions, we always competed amongst oursleves to appease him.
On a fateful day, I joined the rest of the multitude to attend his discourse, ever so careful not to be noticed. APPLEBEE entered with a pompous gait, his loyal followers took his trail and stood behind. Each one was of some manager rank yet none so deserving to even have an employment. The monologue started with some blabbering. For a man with limited attention span, I did well to follow his “Welcome Gentlemen, I wanted to brief you on how the things have been moving lately….” and then he lost me.
The greater part of communication has to do with gestures and expressions rather than the verbal content. So long as my expressions didn’t raise any suspicion, I could slip into my imagination zone. I just had to mentain a facial facade that I was
Attentively listening. It wasn’t that I was deaf, I could hear him, only that I was purposely not processing it in my mind. His elocution echoed vainly in my empty head, and, diligently faded out of the sensory memory. That until I heard him say “… It will sink like a ship without a sail.” His tone was threatening.
Now he was directly looking at me. Why he chose me over everybody else is still one of life’s many mysteries, but I can guess I was the only one in the audience to show genuine interest, at least my expressions did. “So what do you think about it” he roared, I was the lucky one to be asked to answer.
There was no good way for this to end. Frankly I donot even know what he had been talking about, I dont think anybody did. Feeling compulsiated to respond, I was desperately searching for something profound to say. I had to extemporize a response which doesn’t directly refer to his speech yet acknowledges his question and counter proposes another question to change the direction of the conversation altogether.
“well, if you ask me, I think it doesn’t have to… a ship without a sail doesn’t necessarily sink.”
Either I had gone deaf or the room was shocked in pin drop silence. Applebee’s expression testified of the later. Some charisma this guy had and I say had because he had just lost it the while I made the comment. Evidently the others had been listening because now a soft murmuring began. His false superiority had been torn apart. A very insignificant staff member had demonstrated much more optimism than the management. He realized that his pep talk wasn’t motivating at all. He called me up to the podium to congratulate me for such bullishness.
I became an overnight star and a blue-eyed boy to the management. Another positive outcome of this impudence was that we have had to hear much lesser of Applebee since.