Me, Nervous?

Submitted into Contest #123 in response to: Start your story looking down from a stage.... view prompt




1994-ME-NERVOUS Mary Cahill Kurpiewski

Why was I so nervous? Me, Miss Mary Confident? I have always been ‘nervy’ and I couldn’t understand why I felt this way tonight.

I have conned, manipulated, lied--well--rearranged the truth when I applied for the 50 jobs I’ve had and, mostly, had successful results. It all came to a head when I applied for my last job. It wasn’t a big deal or anything, but I had to fill out a resume. 

I have always, most of the time, been confident in my abilities to land whatever job or conclusion I want. I have filled out many job applications with the results I wanted; wrote many complaint letters with fantastic results and complained, nicely, about lots of things. Even talked my way out of speeding tickets! (Officer, not really!) Then, why was I so nervous?

My list of accomplishments goes on and on:

I can cut your lunch meat--I worked at a deli

I can type 160 wpm--I typed envelopes for $5.00 for 100

I can do your taxes--I worked at IRS

I can cook you a meal--I had my own catering company

I can follow anyone for you--I was a detective 

I can tell if your jewelry is real--I was a jeweler

I can tell you the best places to eat--I was a Secret Shopper

I can tell you a story--I have written a book, newspaper articles, etc.

I can teach you 4th grade math--I was a Catholic School teacher

I can get you a good loan--I was a 2nd loan counselor

I can sell you a house--I have a RE license

I can tell you about some movie stars--I handled SAG cards at the Shakespeare Theatre

I can straighten the frames of your glasses--I worked at an optical company

I can sell you insurance--I was a life insurance salesperson

I can watch your children--I owned my own pre-school

I can get your tickets to Broadway shows--I was entertainment secretary at a large firm

I can take photos of your baby--I was a newborn photographer at a hospital

I can check your keyboards--I was a keyboard tester at IBM

I can get your registration filed--I worked at a Auto Tag company

I can sell you anything--I sold lingerie and clothing door to door

I can talk to you about God--I taught Religious Ed to High Schoolers

I can talk you down from a bridge--I am a counselor at the Suicide and Crisis Hotline

With all this experience, why am I so nervous for a job that I’m volunteering for? 

I’m not even getting paid? When I was asked to do this, I accepted graciously. But, on second thought, it was a nun doing the requesting. Since I had 12 years of Catholic education, I guess I was just intimidated. 

Mother Superior called me late one evening when I was almost asleep. She said she had been trying to reach me all day and had a request. She said that the School Open House meeting was next Monday evening. They were expecting over 500 people. After the tour of the school they were going to proceed to the auditorium to serve refreshments and to hear speeches about the school, the curriculum, the rules, the tuition and generally everything about our school.

She said that this year they wanted to include all the organizations and clubs that were a part of the school and the church.

She said that that was where I came in--I belonged to just about every organization in the church and school and she thought with my ‘charisma’ (I think she meant ‘nerve’) that I could share the reasons why they should all join our parish. 

I said ‘yes’ because that’s what I do around nuns. I was nervous all week. I thought about each club and organization and what these new people would get out of them.

Monday evening rolled around fast. As I entered the hall, there were hundreds of parents chatting and drinking coffee. As Mother Superior saw me, she motioned to go up to the stage. I obeyed, nervously.

Behind the curtain were the six other speakers. They had all done this in the prior years so they weren’t really stressed. They gave me a little wave as they looked over their notes.

I had a plan. I inherited great humor from my two brothers. And since the humor I possessed always worked for me I knew what I was going to do and hoped for the best.

Three speakers were introduced and told of all the qualities of our school and parish. The curriculum was discussed, the daily schedule and sports programs. I was next with the organization layout and then one of the fathers would follow me to discuss the tuition.

 I had always heard that a good speaker should use props. Sooo, I had an old, gigantic Webster’s dictionary covered with a tiger cover and a tiny black address book. As I got in front of the podium, I banged the two books down with a thud. The tired parents straightened up! I proceeded to introduce myself as the parent of an eighth grader who had gotten a fantastic education at our school. 

I told them that when Mother had called to ask me to speak, I was a bit tired and didn’t remember exactly what she wanted me to say. I told them I didn’t know if she meant to tell them a little about myself and a lot about our school or vice-versa---a little about the school and a lot about myself. So, I slammed open the cover of the big book and said, “Well, I was born in a row house in Philadelphia!” Everyone roared, including, thank God, Mother Superior! The prom photos and wedding pictures kept them all laughing! Nervousness left me!

The following year, I was asked to speak again. I couldn’t believe Mother would put herself through that again. At one of the meetings proceeding the open house, the father who was the one to discuss tuition said he had a request. He asked if I could speak after him. Mother asked why. He said that the preceding year I got so many laughs that no one listened to his tuition presentation. I told him I had an idea. I knew this guy. He ran the poker parties at the hall. I asked him if he wanted to wager $10. He looked at me, puzzled, but wanted to know more. I said I would bet him that I could get a standing ovation for my speech. He chuckled and told me I was funny, but didn’t think I could pull that off. We bet the ten bucks.

The night of the meeting, the hall was packed. As I got up to the podium, I was a little nervous. I introduced myself. I said it was wonderful that we had such a great turnout. I told 

the parents that I knew how hot it was on this night in July and I knew that most of them had just come from a long day at work. They smiled and murmured amongst themselves. I told them I had an idea. I asked everyone to hold their hands up over their heads and shake them. They obeyed, but they were confused. Then, I said, put your hands under your arms and move side to side. They obeyed. They were laughing, but obliged me. Mother Superior seemed bewildered. After more aerobic movements, I asked them to stand and clap their hands together three times!!!

As they complied, Sam walked up behind me and handed me a ten dollar bill! I think I had this nervousness down.


LOOKING FORWARD---I thought my days of jobs and talking too much were over until this year when I got a call responding to an application I had put in with the Census for their ongoing  surveys. I got the job and many awards for my accuracy and speed! I guess it’s not over!!


December 04, 2021 00:49

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