Rob was a incurable optimist. His favourite saying, that just about everybody that he came in contact with at some time or other would hear at least once was “it’s an ill wind that blows no one any good’. When someone was foolish enough to ask him where that expression came from, he would explain to them at great length that it was ‘older than Shakespeare’, appearing in writer John Heywood’s collection of English proverbs of 1546.
He had heard the proverb first from his mother, Cecile, from whom he seemed to have inherited his optimism, although hers was tainted with way more cynicism than his could ever be. She had spoken the words with a smile upon the occasion of her mother-in-law having to leave her house to go to a long term care home because of her dementia. Rob’s family soon moved into the house, a far better place than the small apartment that had been their place of residence before. Rob was six at the time, and a careful listener. Cecile explained to him what it meant.
The first time that Rob said, “it’s an ill wind that blows no one any good”, and got all the words right was when he was with his two best friends, Larry, and Gary. They had experienced a difficult time walking to school in grade two when an unexpected snowstorm hit when they were only part way to their destination. When they finally arrived at the school, they were told by the janitor that the school principal had declared that it would be a ‘snow day’. They thought at first that Rob was talking about the wind that was whipping the snow all around them, but they still found it reassuring when the proverb was explained to them.
Over the years that followed, they got quite used to the expression. He didn’t have to say the whole complicated phrase, just the short form. Each time in middle school and high school when they broke up with their many short term girl friends, they would hear from Rob the predictable words, “It’s an ill wind”, and knew what he meant. They thought it was better than the always annoying phrase heard from others, including parents, that ‘there’s plenty of fish in the sea’. If Rob were there to hear it, they knew he would reply with, ‘but who wants to go out with a cold, salty fish?’ That always made his friends laugh, and feel a little better.
After high school, Rob got a business degree at university, and started his own business selling men’s clothes. It failed, but he soon got a better job working for a large clothing firm. His words uttered between failure and success, proved in that situation the truth of his ‘ill wind’ belief. And when his immediate boss was arrested for fraud, and Rob was promoted to that position, it fit right into his proverbial way of thinking.
At age 28, feeling that we was on a roll in his career, he thought that he would run for city councillor. He convinced his boss that if he were successful in the election, his work as councillor would not interfere significantly with his job in the firm, so he got the boss’s approval.
The Big Speech
Rob rehearsed and rehearsed for his big speech that would be broadcast on the local cable station. It would be his first public presentation. He didn’t want to have to read his speech, as he thought that would make him look like an amateur. Larry, who now worked for that cable station, had told him that he should look into the camera as if it were the face of every person in the virtual audience. Then they would believe that he would make an honest politician. Looking down all the time would suggest that he was trying to deceive them in some way.
His speech would begin with the statement, “There is one thing that I want to say to you the people of Goldsboro on this night. I want to be your councillor, the one who works for you.”
The night of the speech, he gobbled down the regular Friday night special that his wife would prepare for him – chilli. Rob did not usually eat at such a rapid rate, but he could not really help himself on this occasion. He avoided the beer that he usually had with the Friday night special, as he did not want to smell of beer when he walked into the station. That could start stories that he would not wish to have told about him.
Instead he gulped down a very fizzy hard seltzer with a fruity taste. That seemed like a better idea to him at the time, less of a tell-tale smell..
He drove to the station feeling a little upset in his stomach, but he figured that it was ‘just nerves’, and that it would soon pass once he started talking. As he drove, he several times whispered the words to himself and to his wife, “There is one thing that I want to say to you, the people of Goldsboro, on this night.” He felt that a good beginning using those words would lead to a memorable speech. The words would just flow after that. He was almost sure of it.
When he arrived at the cable station he walked in quickly, aping a confidence he did not really have inside. He was glad to see that there was a small group of family, friends, and other supporters sitting in the stands. But it did not make him less nervous, as he knew that there was a larger audience out there who did not know him, and who he really needed to impress.
The Man, the Microphone and the Metaphor
Rob stepped up to the microphone. The cable techie had performed the ‘testing, testing’ ritual, and had given him the thumbs up. He stood there, with no paper text to support him. This was it, the big test. He began with the words that he knew so well, “There is one thing that I want to say to you, the people of Goldsboro, on this night.” This was followed by a moment’s silence.
And then, Rob did fart. This wasn’t a coy little toot, but a cannon shot, a call of the wild, an anal scream of distress, loud, and long, dragged out for a good five to 10 seconds at least. Talk about a plan backfiring! Rob’s face turned several shades of red.
The ensuing silence was broken, with his friend Larry shouting out the familiar words,
“That is an ill wind that blows no one any good!” This was followed by a burst of laughter from family, friends, and supporters. Then came unexpected applause, as the small crowd stepped up and applauded.
Rob, often a quick thinker, then spoke, “That was a metaphor for what you are going to hear from my opponent tomorrow night on this same network.” He then walked away from the microphone, and out the door.
In the vote a week later, Rob won. The reporter announcing his victory in the local paper, used the words ‘down to earth’ and ‘not your usual politician’. In his acceptance speech, Rob spoke the predictable words, “It is an ill wind that blows no one any good.”